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If you’re trying to energize and engage your workforce and boost productivity, then know this: TIME is the new currency. Got a strategy? We can help.

Companies That Pair Time Out and Innovation Run to the Bank

Is the idea of a sabbatical program at your company a “squishy” one? Is there no perception that time out from a career boosts performance, career longevity and innovation?

Time to express your impatience with stodgy thinking and tell stories of how time off CAN result in extraordinary bottom line results.

From squishy idea to business strategy, 3M’s “15 Percent Time” created days off and resulted in a company that’s an innovation dynamo. Not only is the program impressive, but it’s inspired copy-cat programs at Google and Hewlett-Packard.

The “15 Percent Time” program allows employees to use a portion of their paid time to chase business-related rainbows and hatch ideas. It has produced many of the company’s best-selling products, including post-it notes. (See those yellow ones on your desk?)

Google’s 20 percent time famously gave birth to Gmail, Google Earth, and Gmail Labs. (Read recent Fast Company article, Why Google’s 20 Percent Time Isn’t Causing Brain Drain, November 2010.) Likewise, Hewlett-Packard Labs offers personal creative time and past projects have included making clear bandages, optical films that reflect light, and designing a way to make painter’s tape stick to wall edges (to protect against paint bleed). All these products are on the market now.

3M launched the “15 Percent Time” program in 1948 when a post-war America was suiting up and going to the office (well, the men were) with rigid hierarchies and nary a “work-life” program on the horizon. A program for personal creative time must have seemed a tad radical by some. That could just as easily be said about “sabbatical programs” today.

Personal creative time is about creating a culture of giving employees an opportunity to benefit the company.  Whether in the name of rejuvenation, wellness or creativity, the company should get a pay back. So if sabbatical programs are still being talked about merely as a benefit/perk – well, we don’t think that’s smart, and neither should your boss.

Your boss isn’t ready for a “20 Percent Time” program, you say? Perhaps your company would shriek even at 5 percent.

Fine. But know that “time out” programs are a smart, growing business practice with tangible results. And visonary, innovative leaders within companies are, and will, find a way to champion them.

“Consider a sabbatical program to increase our company’s performance.” Post that on several hundred post-its and start a dialog. Who knows, a visionary leader could be in your midst.

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