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As organizations grapple with the repercussions of the Great Resignation, the answer to employee retention might lie in a principle that defies the traditional tenets of the work ethic: structured rest. In his insightful book, The Cave, the Road, the Table, and the Fire, Karl Martin introduces “The Cave” – a metaphor for a space and time that fosters clarity and intention. Drawing parallels to organizational health, it’s evident that a similar approach to work cadence could be revolutionary for employee retention.

Cadence as Corporate Culture

In music, cadence provides structure and resolution. In business, it should offer a rhythmic balance between effort and ease. Organizations that successfully implement a thoughtful work cadence underscore their commitment to wellbeing, which is increasingly prioritized by employees seeking more than just a paycheck.

There is rhythm in you – it’s already in there. After all, this world we inhabit has rhythm. Creation is cadent. The sun rises and sets. The tides rise and fall. The seasons come and go … And how we learn and what we remember and what we treasure owes much to rhythm.

Rest: The Unseen Business Lever

Cognitive Resilience: Rest periods enable cognitive resilience, preventing decision fatigue and fostering a mindset geared towards innovation. Just as Martin’s “Cave” equips leaders for their day, regular breaks equip employees to tackle challenges with renewed vigour.

Deep Work and Productivity: Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” champions the necessity of undisturbed focus for peak productivity. Businesses that facilitate periods of uninterrupted work punctuated by rest often see a spike in high-quality output.

Holistic Health: A rhythm that respects work-life integration reduces the risk of burnout, promoting longevity and sustained performance. Companies that adopt this approach often witness a decline in absenteeism and healthcare costs.

Cultivating Creativity: Scheduled downtime can result in unexpected bursts of creativity. Employees can return with fresh insights by stepping away from the noise, propelling the organization forward.

Work is noble and purposeful and human and, as such, we owe it to ourselves and to our soul to show up rested, able to give of our best.

Implementing a New Rhythm

Emulating tech giants like Google, which grants employees the freedom to explore personal projects in 20% of their time, and Microsoft Japan, which reported a substantial productivity increase with a reduced, 4-day workweek, demonstrates the efficacy of this approach. These examples serve as testaments to the potential unlocked through restorative pauses.

Towards a Rest-Centric Retention Strategy

The post-pandemic landscape calls for an evolution in management thinking. An organizational culture that prioritizes intentional rest aligns closely with the desires of a workforce that values personal health and well-being alongside professional achievement. Such an environment not only attracts but retains top talent.

In Conclusion

The lessons from Martin’s “Cave” can extend beyond personal practice to become a strategic initiative for organizations. As businesses battle the tides of the Great Resignation, it is not the time to shun the quiet. On the contrary, it is time to embrace the strategic pause. To retain talent in this new era, business leaders must look inward and cultivate a corporate rhythm that echoes the restorative power of rest.

As the adage goes, “Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.” It’s time for companies to take this to heart, not just as a throwaway line but as a strategic foundation for the future of work.


Quotations taken from The Cave, the Road, the Table and the Fire, Leading from a deeper place, by Karl Martin; published on 17 November 2023 by Kilfinan Press, 256 pp, hardback, £25.

Jonathan Hewitt is Operations Director of Arable, the leadership training consultancy founded by Karl Martin, the author of The Cave, the Road, the Table and the Fire.