‘Thinking days’ help financial advisory staffers get creative

Company: Glassman Wealth Services.

Location: McLean.

Employees: 8.

About a decade ago, Barry Glassman decided he’d borrow a business idea from Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Twice a year, the technology titan famously retreats to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest for what he calls “Think Week.” He turns off his phone, disconnects from the Web, and cuts off contact with family and staff so he can have uninterrupted time to ponder new ideas in solitude.

Glassman, president of McLean-based financial advisory firm Glassman Wealth Services, decided he, too, might benefit from taking some time away from his gadgets and the daily grind to think big about his career and his business.

“It was priceless,” Glassman said.

Since he felt like his own hiatus was so productive, Glassman decided that his entire staff should experience the same benefit. And so he began quarterly “thinking days” in which each staffer is required to spend a day away from the office to read, watch or do something that will enhance their work back at the office. Glassman picks up employees’ lunch tabs on these days as an added perk.

When they return to the office, they give a presentation about what they learned or what ideas they cooked up.

“I think it’s helped all of us to think outside the box and really strive to make it to the next level,” said Gabe Muller, director of client service and operations.

Sometimes a thinking day is somewhat structured. For a recent installment, Glassman asked staffers to watch TED Talks, the series of online videos featuring thinkers and visionaries from around the globe.

Glassman said it was very insightful to see which videos employees chose to highlight in their presentations.

“It was fascinating to see what was meaningful to each one of us,” he said.

Other thinking days have had no guidelines. Muller, an aviation enthusiast, spent one of his days in a park near Reagan National Airport watching airport operations. His hope was that it would spark some ideas about ways to work more efficiently.

“It was really pretty amazing to actually think about, ‘my employer is giving me the ability to do this,’ ” Muller said.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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