A few years ago, after hearing several stories about companies that offered sabbaticals to their staff, I suggested we do the same at CASE. Flexibility, creativity and work/life balance have always been a core part of our company culture, so instituting a sabbatical program that encouraged all these elements seemed like a no-brainer.
Taking time away to rebalance and recharge is incredibly important to wellbeing and work satisfaction. At CASE, we know that employees who feel appreciated and supported in both their work and their extracurricular interests are happier and more productive at work overall. We also know that employees who have the time and support to find satisfaction outside of work bring new and interesting perspectives back into the studio.
From a retention standpoint, offering sabbaticals is huge: We knew that the average tenure for employees in our field was about five years, and that often employees stayed in jobs for about two years, then took time off in between to pursue their own interests. By offering sabbaticals to tenured employees, we aimed to address these challenges—giving people a good reason to stay longer and offering paid opportunities to explore other areas of their lives, rather than taking unpaid time in between jobs to do the same thing.
We decided we would reward employees who had been with us for seven years with a month of paid leave, in addition to their regular vacation time. The time was wholly theirs, to do whatever they felt would most benefit them—spending time with family, throwing themselves into a personal project, taking a course, traveling, or taking a genuine break.
I myself took the opportunity to do a trip I'd always felt required more time than I had—learning to scuba dive in Thailand and Bali. When I returned to work a month later, I knew I'd done the right thing by pushing for this program to be implemented across the company. I felt refreshed personally, recharged for work, and had a new sense of appreciation for and closeness to the colleagues who stepped up and supported my projects while I was away.
Sabbaticals are now an essential part of the flexible culture CASE offers to staff to help them grow and create a happy, supportive working culture, which ultimately leads to retention and productivity.
And it's not just the employees who go on sabbatical that benefit. The team members who step up while they're away have an opportunity to take on new challenges, test their skills and confidence, and stake a deeper claim in the work. The benefits of teamwork and having a colleague's back while they're away can have a great impact on morale and culture.
I'd encourage every agency to offer sabbaticals to staff—it's a program that both respects employees' individual needs and celebrates their contributions, while simultaneously challenging them to step outside their comfort zone in both their personal lives and at work. As a creative team, recognizing the need for this kind of balance is essential, not just for retention and culture but for the service we provide: Creativity is a response to challenges and freedoms, and we need to offer both of those things to make the best work.