I give all my employees August off on full pay. Here's how it works and why it's boosted productivity.


I started 64 Million Artists in 2014. We're a social enterprise that helps employees in companies, universities, schools, and other organizations rediscover their creativity.

When you treat people well and allow them to follow what's important to them, they'll do good work. From the beginning, I wanted to embed those values in my own company.

During the pandemic, we moved to working a four-day workweek and remote working to support our employees.

But as life started to return to normal, I realized my colleagues were burnt out. The company had grown from four to seven employees over the last few years and demand for our creativity workshops increased.

My exhausted staff needed a proper break

I'd read Brene Brown's essay about her company giving everyone four weeks off in August and decided to follow suit. No emails on phones or computers. Staff would still get paid, but would not work for a whole month.

There weren't any significant financial downsides because we work with schools, universities, and community services that slow down in the summer. There is never much public-facing work for us in August – so not working felt pretty easy. There's no way we could do this during January for example, that is our busiest season.

We announced our August 2022 closure on Twitter and people were shocked. I was surprised by the public's reaction. Having worked in creative spaces throughout my career, I'm used to thinking outside the box and taking risks. So, to me, this was a normal response to the pandemic.

Logistically people imagine that closing down your office would be difficult. Having made the decision in May 2022, it did feel rushed that first year.

But the staff was delighted and our clients all respected our choice – most of them wanted to do the same. My phone number was on everybody's out-of-office as a backup, but only for emergencies.

The second year around, knowing that we had a break in August has made the process much smoother. We informed clients ahead of time and made plans in July for September so we could get straight to work once we returned.

A month off with full pay is now a permanent feature of our employee contracts. The only change we've made is to reduce annual holiday allocation from 25 to 20 days a year – not including August.

It's definitely a pull for employees. We tend to get between 150 and 300 applications when we post a new opening.

Taking time off actually does more for our productivity

Jo Hunter
Jo Hunter quit her job to start 64 Million Artists in 2014. 
Jo hunter

When we got back to the office last September we were better at making decisions. The break meant we returned with clarity and ambition, allowing us to come up with more innovative ideas.

The company has grown significantly since last August. We've hired four new people and have started some exciting programs. We are expecting to increase our turnover by about 50% this year.

In the UK, we see being productive as sitting at our desks churning out emails, but what makes a lasting impact in businesses is innovation, inclusion, and ideas.

You can't do those things if your staff are burnt out and taking a break helps to prevent that.

As a nation, we're hardwired to think our validity comes from how hard we work. But when people have the space to pursue their own interests you get so much more out of them at work.

I didn't want to fall into another productivity trap with the month off

It was important that we didn't set any goals or mandates on how people spent their month off. Rest looks different to everyone and we wanted to respect that.

The first year I felt I had to do so much with my time off. But by the second time around, I was easier on myself. I went on holiday with my family, spent time reading in beautiful places, and did a little wood chopping.

A lot of the time I was simply looking after my two kids. It felt great just to be a mom some of the time, and not the boss and the mom and me.

We write off so many good ideas by just saying 'that's not realistic'

Jo Hunter
Jo Hunter, Co-founder of 64 Million artists. 
Jo Hunter

I'm not saying that everyone should do what we are doing, but don't say immediately that it would never work for your company.

Four years ago, no one would have thought that the whole country could suddenly work from home and things would be alright. And yet, they did it.

The biggest pushback we get is that this break only works for us because we are a small company and August is a quiet month.

But closing for a few weeks is common in companies across Finland, France, Spain, and many other countries.

I want to take our learnings to companies that are much bigger and prove it's possible.

Right now, CEOs of some of the world's biggest companies are pointing to productivity data to call their employees back to offices.

We shouldn't ignore data, but every system is made of thousands of human beings. Maybe those CEOs are right, and staff are less productive at home. But it could be because they are burnt out and stressed, or disillusioned with work. Calling everyone back to the office is a blanket response to a more nuanced issue.

What I've discovered about taking August off as a business owner is not to shut down the possibility of doing something that isn't the norm. Giving people more freedom, not less, produces better ideas and more productive employees.

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