“No brainer”: Why the founders of Whole Kids are giving their entire team a week off 

Whole Kids

Whole Kids co-founders James and Monica Meldrum with their kids Chloe and Sam. Source: Whole Kids.

Next week, no one will be doing any work at Whole Kids, not even the founders. Instead, the children’s nutrition business will be downing the tools for a week as staff are given the chance to “recharge and regroup” with a bonus week of paid leave.

The idea of entire teams taking simultaneous time off, or ‘tools down days’, gained traction towards the end of 2021 as companies like Adore Beauty, Linktree and Go-To Skincare sought to support their teams during the ongoing pandemic. However, Whole Kids is taking it one step further by hitting pause for a full week. 

The fast-growing B Corp, which has raised more than $2.4 million via equity crowdfunding in 2020 and 2021, employs a team of close to 20 employees, who look after warehouses, suppliers, manufacturers and customers across eight countries. Each team member will be taking the paid week off, including the owners of the business, and this leave will be in addition to their normal leave entitlements.

For co-founder and chief executive Monica Meldrum, the week off is a way to both recognise the team’s efforts over the past two-and-a-half-years, as well as prioritising their wellbeing during what continues to be a challenging time as both COVID-19 and the flu circulate in the community.

“I don’t think we can underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on our people, particularly our team who are all located in Melbourne and have lived and worked through major uncertainty over the past two-and-a-half years,” she told SmartCompany

Despite interruptions to its supply chain from COVID-19, climate change and the war in Ukraine, Meldrum says Whole Kids grew by 40% last year, which didn’t happen without “some serious effort and dedication” from the team. 

The business is anticipating doubling its turnover this financial year, while also preparing to bring on new staff in the coming weeks, and Meldrum says the owners were “very conscious of people’s energy levels and the pace at which they were working”. The timing felt right “to pause and take a simultaneous week off”, she adds. 

“We need to be looking out for the welfare of our people and the least we can do is give everyone the opportunity to recharge and recoup, to focus on themselves, their wellbeing and their families. To stop, take a moment and just breathe, and this means everyone!”

While Meldrum says it took some convincing for staff to get on board with the idea — the initial responses were comments like, “I’m too busy to stop” and “there’s too much happening” — she says they are now all excitedly sharing their plans for the week.

Importantly, with every team member taking a break, there won’t be pressure for people to check their emails or take phone calls.

“So everyone is free to do whatever it is that lifts their spirits, knowing that they are being supported financially to do so,” said Meldrum.

Of course, closing for a week requires planning to ensure all customers and suppliers don’t face any interruptions. The company has also explained exactly why they are taking a break to all their stakeholders, reinforcing the focus on their health and wellbeing of the Whole Kids team.

The benefits of the week’s break are hard to quantify, says Meldrum, who believes the team will all come back to work with renewed clarity, focus and energy. It’s a “no brainer” for the business, she says, and one that they are talking about introducing as an annual event at the close of each financial year.

“We know as founders that some of our best ideas and innovation come from stepping away from the business and taking the time to recharge and reflect, so why not give everyone the opportunity to do this?” she said.

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