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Team Success
April 11, 2019

Sabbaticals: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Software Consultant

I love the saying “Have your cake and eat it too” but for this blog post it’s more like, “Sabbaticals: Have Your Job And Take A Lot Of Time Off To Learn, Reset, And Regenerate.” That seems like a big stretch but let’s go with it!

Last year I took 2 months off of work. It was a unique, wonderful, and fulfilling decision, one that I realize comes with a lot of privilege attached. Even though I wasn’t getting paid, I had a job, health insurance, and time to do whatever I wanted.

My sabbatical gave me life. Pre-sabbatical I was in a bad place and I was hurting the team in my broken state. Like a randomly failing spec, I was unreliable, hard to fix, and annoying.
Post-sabbatical, I was rejuvenated, refreshed, ready to be a part of the process, ready to get to work! My mental test suite was back to green and consistent AF. My positivity and productivity level was restored. And even though it’s been almost a year since I left, these effects have stuck with me, and I don’t feel them dwindling.

Why would my company offer a sabbatical?

I hear employee retention is a good thing! The tech industry is prone to high turnover. Things move fast here and the people want to move with it! Movement is good, except that turnover is expensive, disruptive, and often a sign of low morale.

I’ve worked at Tandem for almost 5 years and with several other employees for 4+ years, so I want to say our retention rate is high. The reason I stay is that there are clear processes and policies to help employees feel supported, valued, and cared for. The newest addition being the sabbatical policy!

Other Policies that keep us around

PTO:

We have a great PTO policy, and on top of that, there are floating holidays, traditional holidays, sick days, work from home days; all kinds of days to keep us feeling fresh and focused.

Core hours:

We put focus on a healthy work/life balance by having core hours from 10am-4pm. This ensures that we are all working together for most of the day but provides flexibility for those morning people who like to start their day early and leave early, or nighthawks who prefer the later time period. Core hours, pair programming, and constant team collaboration contribute to our efforts of capping people at 40 hours a week. We are wise enough to know that an overworked team can lead to poor performance, bad decisions, and negativity.

An amazing office manager:

This is not a policy but thanks to our incredible office manager, we are gifted with delicious breakfasts and lunches, beautifully curated snack shelves, La Croix dedicated refrigerators, seasonal fruit bowls, and countless behind the scenes work that keeps the office running smoothly. Thank you, Jeffrey, for taking such good care of us!

Benefits:

100% paid medical, dental, vision, life, etc insurance. Probably deserves more credit but what else is there to say?

A mission statement that cares about everyone:

We always focus first on people — our clients, their customers, and our team — and what we make and how we make it reflects our understanding, respect, and love for people.
Tandem’s employees are considered a vital part of the process. As a small consultancy in the competitive tech industry, we have maintained a culture of care and compassion that helps set us apart.

At this point you may be thinking, “cool but um, if things are so great, why did you need a sabbatical?”
Great Q. These 5 years at Tandem have been the best. But shit happens and I found myself in need of a break–a break that no reasonable amount of PTO could provide.

Introducing The Sabbatical!

Tandem’s sabbatical policy is still hanging in a Pull Request on GitHub but insiders tell me the handbook is being revamped and the policy will be merged soon!
The official documentation states:
To reward employees who have been with Tandem for a significant period of time, Tandem offers employees an option to take a sabbatical. This gives employees an opportunity to explore new skills, cultures, and ideas. Sabbaticals bring creativity and innovation back to Tandem upon an employee’s return.

I might make a PR adding the importance of the sabbaticalee’s mental health, considering we all know that’s the key to good work! And as that was my main objective, I think it paid off 🙂

There are so many reasons to take a sabbatical. Regardless of the reason, if it’s available to you I hope you consider taking it!

Take it, it’s yours!

Policies, resources, people in favor of short-term leave:

If your company does not have a sabbatical policy in place, here are some resources that could help you make your case! If it does, here are some resources that may inspire you to take it!

A list of companies offering sabbaticals – if The Cheesecake Factory does it, you could too!

yourSabbatical.com – A website dedicated to helping companies implement sabbatical plans

“Sabbaticals Are Good For Workers And Employers”

Society For Human Resource Management’s Leave Policy

HR.com’s old article with some nice ideas

The Power of Time Off (TED Talk by Stefan Sagmeister)

6 Modern Sabbatical Ideas

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