#175 – Integrity Idea 025: Reward Rest

ESSENCE:  Integrity Ideas are specific actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.


COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action):  Policies

COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt):  Highly Covert


Most Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  “Reward Rest” is about instituting policies that (1) provide employees with meaningful periods of rest and (2) help cultivate a culture in which taking periods of rest is honored and encouraged (and in which failing to take them is actively discouraged).  God rested from work, and then He gave His creation, including His image-bearers, the gift of rest from work through practices like the Sabbath, Sabbaticals and feasts.  Pursuing business a better way through faithful integrity requires honoring the spirit of that gift.  It recognizes and honors the dignity of each employee as an image-bearing recipient of God’s gift, and it reinforces a culture that values relationships and community.  “Reward Rest” can be difficult because trust is difficult, but offering and taking rest is an opportunity for leaders and employees to exhibit trust in God’s provision.

Integrity Ideas are specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.  You can find more Integrity Ideas at Integrous | Integrity Ideas (integriosity.com)

Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  We believe some are critical (and necessary) steps in the RENEW/RE-ALIGN/RE-IMAGINE/RESTORE process.  Others are just ideas to be considered if they feel like a good fit based on what leaders prayerfully discern is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.

“Reward Rest” falls into the “necessary” category.  God gave the gift of rest to His creation.  A leader can either recognize and honor that gift with policies that “Reward Rest” or ignore and dishonor it (which just sounds like a bad idea).  Recognizing and honoring that gift is not “giving” something to employees—it is allowing them to keep and enjoy the gift that was already given by their benevolent Creator.


“Reward Rest” is about instituting policies that (1) provide employees with meaningful periods of rest and (2) help cultivate a culture in which taking periods of rest is honored and encouraged (and in which failing to take them is actively discouraged).

“Reward Rest” recognizes that God rested from work, and then He gave His creation, including His image-bearers, the gift of rest from work through practices like the Sabbath, Sabbaticals and feasts.  Pursuing business a better way through faithful integrity requires honoring the spirit of that gift.  It recognizes and honors the dignity of each employee as an image-bearing recipient of God’s gift, and it reinforces a culture that values relationships and community.

“Reward Rest” can be difficult because trust is difficult, but offering and taking rest is an opportunity for leaders and employees to exhibit trust in God’s provision.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote about work and rest:

Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and He gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.

God’s Gifts of Rest.  The Bible tells us about three key types of physical rest that God commanded–not simply suggested.  There is Sabbath rest (rest every seventh day), Sabbatical rest (rest every seventh year) and “feast” rest (rest during several required feast periods).

We covered the origins and importance of Sabbath rest in post #147 (Remember the Fourth).  God also commanded special Sabbath rest during festivals and holidays such as Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23: 7-8), the Festival of Weeks (Leviticus 23:21), the Festival of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24-25), the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:28-32), The Festival of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:35-36, 39).

Sabbatical rest originates from the command to allow fields to lie fallow every seventh year.  It can be found in passages such as:

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. (Exodus 23:10-11)

When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food. (Leviticus 25:2-7)

Rest requires trust in God’s provision.  The Israelites wandering in the wilderness had to trust that the manna they collected on the sixth day would not go bad on the seventh.  Leviticus says to trust that the land will provide during a year-long Sabbatical even if you don’t work it.

The Bible also mentions another unique period of rest–the first year after marriage:

When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken. (Deuteronomy 24:5)

Business as Usual and Work as Usual.  As we detailed back in post #164 (The Brokenness of “Business as Usual”), business as usual and work as usual have taken their toll on the American worker and workplace.

We pointed you to the book Profit with a Higher Purpose, which does a good job highlighting the significant changes in the demands on workers in America over the least several decades leading to increased hours and greater stress (and the impact of those changes on health, marriages and children), including:

• The 40 hour work having broken down for various reasons they explain.

• U.S. workers taking less vacation than at any time in four decades.

• 37% of Americans sleeping less than 7 hours, mainly due to work and commuting.

We also noted a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Sunday Night is the New Monday Morning, and Workers are Miserable”, which cites one study that found 62% of working adults between the ages 23 and 38 “said they felt pressure to be available around the clock through email, Slack and other work communication channels” and another survey in which 80% of all participants (and 91% of millennials) “experienced a surge in stress related to their jobs on Sunday nights.

It is clear that business as usual is not working for much of humanity.  Work is where we spend most of our waking hours, and it has moved far from its original design in Genesis as something good.  In recent years, a tight labor market has prompted workers to push back and get vocal.  Based on the conclusions outlined in a recent MIT Sloan study of what has been called the “Great Resignation” (or as we called it, the “Great De-Humanization”), the Great Resignation is best explained as people leaving organizations with cultures that were de-humanizing.  They were business as usual cultures that failed to treat people with dignity and respect

Key attributes of business as usual (such as Profit as Purpose, Scarcity and Self-Interest), and the impact they have on work as usual (such as work becoming Idol and Identity, work being about Money and Power, work being a Burden and work being characterized by Unhealthy Relationships) make it difficult to create an organizational culture that really “Rewards Rest”.

Profit as Purpose devalues human dignity, while “Reward Rest” is built on a recognition of Imago Dei and God’s gift of rest to His creation.

Scarcity is devoid of trust, while “Reward Rest” requires trust in God by leaders and employees.

Self-Interest does not prioritize community, while “Reward Rest” depends on community to make it possible and “safe” for a person to take rest.  The community must encourage it, provide the support to “cover” for it, and respond cooperatively rather than opportunistically so that a person taking rest does not fear others will seek to undermine them when they are away.

Biblical rest is also an opportunity to reconnect with God rather than merely an escape from work.  With the toxicity of work as usual, it can be difficult not to see rest as anythng more than an escape.

Business a Better Way.  “Reward Rest” aligns completely with, and reinforces, attributes of an organizational culture of business a better way.

• Human dignity is at the core of business a better way and “Reward Rest”, recognizing that rest is a gift from God to His image-bearers and His creation.  Imago Dei is also a basis for people caring for each other.  When leaders care about their employees, they want them to be physically, mentally and spiritually healthy, all of which require rest.

• Healthy relationships are an important attribute of a business a better way culture and they are critical to people working together to encourage each other to take rest then to honor that rest while they are away.

• Community is foundational to business a better way and makes “Reward Rest” workable as people pitch in to “cover” for each other, living out the Golden Rule.

We are reminded of one of our favorite quotes from James Hunter’s book To Change the World:

To manage a business in a way that grows out of a Biblical view of relationships, community and human dignity before God has divine significance, irrespective of what else might be done from this platform.

CONTINUUM: Proclamation and Policies

The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums.  There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture.  The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.

Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.

“Reward Rest” is on the Proclamation and Policies Continuums.  Proclamation involves actions that share Biblical faith messages with those who may not have a Biblical faith.  Policies are written guidelines that define aspects of an organization’s culture. They help create the framework on which practices can be developed.

COVERT-OVERT RATING: Highly Overt to Highly Covert

The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.

Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale.  Some can vary depending on how they are implemented.  “Reward Rest” can be anywhere on the Continuum from Highly Overt (An overtly faith-based action involving community, website, sales/marketing materials) to Highly Covert (an action that would be taken by a secular company), depending upon the nature of the organization and the way the policy is explained.

Secular organizations have an interest in employees being mentally and physically healthy, but attributes of business as usual such as Scarcity and Self-Interest and the impact they have on shaping work as usual undermine offering, honoring and taking rest.

In an organization pursuing business a better way, “Reward Rest” is likely to be Overt (An overtly faith-based action known generally within the organization) because instituting compensation practices that vary from those of business as usual will be obvious and best explained by anchoring them to a bigger WHY.


When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.

“Reward Rest” principally serves employees, which also serves the well-being of their families, which in turn serves the well-being of their communities.

It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest. (Elisabeth Elliot)


Like many of our Integrity Ideas, there is no checklist or “right answer” for implementing “Reward Rest”.  It is helpful to think about implementation in three stages: Types of Rest, Protecting Rest and Building a “Reward Rest” Culture.

Types of Rest.  In considering implementing “Reward Rest”, faithful leaders need to evaluate the types of rest currently offered to employees and then prayerful consider whether different or additional types of rest should and can be offered.

Some types of rest may not be practical for all organizations.  For example, seasonal businesses can’t practically allow long rests during their busy seasons–landscapers during summer (in cold climates) and ski resorts during winter.  A small business will be limited in the types of rest it can offer because it has a smaller work community to “cover” for the person who is away.  That said, here are a few type of rest to consider:

Sabbath. Weekly sabbath rest is the most basic rest and one we discussed in detail in post #147 (Remember the Fourth).

Vacation.  Most jobs offer vacation.  Variation comes in whether the vacation is paid, how much time is offered, when it is allowed to be taken, and whether it can be carried over.  Paid vacation encourages use.  Vacation that can be carried over discourages regular use.

Maternity/Paternity/Adoption Leave.  We addressed this type of rest in post #166 (Adopt Adoption) in the context of extending the benefit to parents who adopt a child.

Wedding Leave.  While special rest following a wedding is not common, it is common for people to take an extended vacation after getting married.  While it is probably not practicable for an organization to offer the one-year required by Deuteronomy (certainly not paid), “Reward Rest” policies can be tailored to permit more vacation to be used in a block following a wedding.

Sabbaticals. Although most common in academic and faith-based organizations, some businesses also offer extended Sabbaticals after an employee has worked a specified number of years.

Faithful leaders must also prayerfully consider how overt or covert to be about the WHY behind implementing a “Reward Rest” culture in the organization.

Encouraging and Protecting Rest.  Creating policies that ensure rest periods are utilized and honored is as, if not more, important than officially granting the rest.  The fact that workers are taking less vacation than at any time in four decades is probably not primarily a function of people being granted less vacation.

Faithful leaders considering implementing “Reward Rest” must assess whether their current policies are designed to encourage and protect rest periods and how those policies could be more “rest-friendly”.  The Wall Street Journal referenced above suggests that even weekend “Sabbath” rest is disrupted by 24/7 communication tools.  Some organizations have taken steps to protect those “at rest” from intrusion:

• As part of Bandwidth.com’s “Whole Person Promise”, there is an e-mail embargo when someone is on vacation or taking a personal day off.

• The WSJ article mentions that Bandwidth also has a “vacation blackout policy that bars employees from attending to business during time off.”

•  Another company, Vynamic, has received a great deal of press regarding its “zzzMail Policy” that prohibits e-mails between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and on weekends.  It is enforced with a custom e-mail tool.

Obviously, those types of embargoes are not realistic for all industries, but they are for many.

“Rewards Rest” Culture.  The most important exercise for a faithful leader implementing “Reward Rest” is to RE-IMAGINE and RE-ALIGN the organization’s culture to align with business a better way.

Re-Imagining Culture around “Reward Rest” requires an honest assessment of the organization’s current culture, as reflected in its policies and practices related to areas such as hiring, termination, discipline, compensation, training, “work day” expectations, vacation, personal days, sick days, family leave.

• Do managers send e-mails “after hours”?  What do managers consider to be the “work day”?

• Is “facetime” expected or discouraged?  Do managers expect to see everyone at work when they arrive and when they leave, whether or not they have work to do?

• How are people encouraged to use the rest time to which they are entitled?  Do managers “punish” those who use all their vacation or family leave?

• Does the process for requesting rest time make people feel like they are “begging” for an indulgence or like they are accepting a gift given joyfully?

• Is there a process in place to “cover” those who take a rest so that they do not feel like they need to keep checking-in?

• Is there a process in place to identify people who have not been taking the rest to which they are entitled, to talk with them about the reasons, to assess whether it is indicative of a larger problem, and to encourage them to take a rest.

• Is there a process in place to identify people, particularly managers, who are unwilling to honor, enable or encourage others to take rests?  How is those behaviors being actively discouraged?

Whenever we talk about honestly assessing culture, it is useful to come back to this quote from Seth Godin:

People are watching you. They’re not listening to your words as much as they’re seeking to understand where the boundaries and the guard rails lie, because they’ve learned from experience that people who do what gets rewarded, get rewarded.  Be clear and consistent about how we do things around here.

A “Reward Rest” culture should send the message that taking rest is rewarded; honoring, enabling and encouraging others to take rest is rewarded; and anything less is NOT “how we do things around here” and will be actively discouraged.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM):  For over 23 years I worked in a large Wall Street law firm (although it is probably considered mid-sized by today’s standards).  In general, “Reward Rest” was not how you would usually describe the culture even though official vacation time was quite generous.  As an associate, I was entitled to four weeks vacation and as a partner to six.  I always took all my vacation.  Here are a few snapshots of the good and bad about the “rest” culture:

• “Facetime” was not really an issue.  You were just expected to get your work done.  It was understood that work in any particular practice area was cyclical.  There were times when you would be required to work seven days a week, around the clock.  You should enjoy the cycles when you could come in at 10 and leave at 5 because they wouldn’t last long.   That said, there were people who had the motion sensors removed from their office so that they could keep the lights on all the time (and appear to always be just a few steps away when someone walked by who assumed the motion sensors were still working).

• Vacations and other rest time could be cancelled or disrupted at a moment’s notice.

• Everyone understood that the “work week” was Mon-Sun.  One popular saying was “If you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t bother coming in on Sunday”.

• Many partners were very good about trying to protect associate vacations.  Partners were good about “covering” for those in their practice group to protect each other’s vacations.  I think this was a by-product of a lock-step partner compensation system.  Partners were all in it together—not worrying about who was getting “credit” for work.  One tragic story involved an associate who was told to cancel a long-planned golf vacation with his father because of a deal.  His father died unexpectedly before it could be rescheduled.

• E-mail and cellphones came as a mixed blessing.  On the positive side, you didn’t need to stay near a landline or put money into a payphone to check for voicemails.  On the downside, you were always on call.  Of course, you were always on call even before e-mail and cellphones.  I fell on the “more positive than negative” side of the debate.

Whether or not you liked the “rest” expectations, the organization was pretty “clear and consistent about how we do things around here.

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Photo credit: Original photo by Mo Eid on Pexels (photo cropped)