A tree with blue Christmas lights and the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts on the St. Paul campus on the evening of December 5, 2014.

Welcoming a True Winter Break

Beginning Wednesday, December 23, the University of St. Thomas will close for a 12-day period. This continues a tradition of “gift days,” granted by the university’s president, to regular full-time, part-time and temporary employees who would have been scheduled to work between December 23 and January 3. These gift days combine with paid holidays – Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day – to create an extended break for staff and faculty in which to slow down, recharge and connect with friends and family.

In recent years, work/life balance, and how to achieve it, has become a hot topic in the news and at the Opus College of Business. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp; workers everywhere strive to give the most they can to their jobs and careers while also giving an equal amount, or more, to family, friends and other important life pursuits.

But in practice it can be tricky. If we get caught up in the whirlwind, we begin to feel as if we’re being pulled in too many directions. The modern workplace is increasingly structured in a way that allows us to stay connected even when we’re not in the office, blurring the line between work and personal time. Soon, we can lose sight of our priorities and feel as if we’re no longer succeeding on any front. This is a sign that it’s time to recharge, reconnect and possibly to reprioritize.

The extended break for the university’s faculty and staff allows for this uninterrupted time, something that closely aligns with our mission of focusing on the common good. Often, the “common good” is interpreted as being external – the Twin Cities, Minnesota, our nation and even global communities. But it’s also internal. Our students, faculty and staff give all we can to advance this mission each day and the spirit in which the gift days are given is an acknowledgement of this. During our time away, when all of our colleagues are unplugged as well, we can spend time with those who matter most to us or take time to be alone. We can reflect on the year that was while thinking about priorities for the year to come. We can do any number of things – see the new “Star Wars” movie, go for long walks, travel – or maybe do nothing at all. But the hoped-for end result, when we arrive back at work on January 4, is well-rested people who are ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

Sometimes regaining one’s balance requires the gift of time.