My sabbatical got off to a rocky start. On the fifth day of a four-month vacation, I lost my phone.
I was traveling with a friend in Mexico to a city called Zitacuaro, which is the home base for a famous butterfly sanctuary. To reach the butterflies, we hiked a grueling five-hour trek up a mountain. But once we arrived, we were treated to a spectacular sight of monarch butterflies clustered on the trees and flying all around us. I took dozens of photos, but at some point during the hike my phone just disappeared.
Unexpectedly, my work sabbatical became a technology sabbatical as well.
I lost all of my photos, and crucially I lost my connection to the world outside of my immediate surroundings. And yet, I actually loved it.
My mind felt less cluttered from looking at so much information all the time. I felt very attuned to each present moment, and that made me feel uplifted. I also felt a little arrogant because I looked at everyone else around me on their phone and I felt very proud that I didn’t need that.
That was just one of many life-changing experiences I gained during my sabbatical. Over the course of the next four months, I’d visit a handful of countries, including Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Columbia. I attended a wedding of a fellow RG -er where I was maid of honor in Bali (you may recognize her from some of our other posts). I even met my current boyfriend while I was traveling, and yes, I did eventually replace my cellphone.
But most importantly, I gained a newfound appreciation for my company and its mission.
At Reward Gateway, our mission statement is: Let’s make the world a better place to work. It’s something I’m really passionate about, and it really hit home while I was on my sabbatical how much Reward Gateway is passionate about and continuously working towards this mission, both internally as well as externally. After six years at Reward Gateway, I took advantage of one of our perks, the option to take an unpaid employee sabbatical after five years of service.
Reward Gateway gave me the opportunity to do something I love, which is to travel the world, and still be able to come back to a role here through its employee sabbatical benefits.
I returned to work feeling rejuvenated, full of new ideas and ready to make an impact.
It was like hitting the reset button. I gained a new clarity of thought that I think you can only get by taking a break.
The importance of an employee sabbatical
Not every company offers sabbaticals, but I think more will, particularly as companies want to attract more millennials, who really value experiences and work that’s meaningful. The opportunity to take time off and hit the reset button doesn’t receive enough attention. It’s not embedded in our culture. But I’ve learned that letting people take a break boosts their happiness levels and allows them to become more engaged at work and perform better.
In addition to traveling all over the world, the time off gave me an opportunity to work on personal development and do some things I don’t normally have time to do. For example, I read a lot of books about marketing and psychology that will make an impact on the work I do in my role as the company’s Product Marketing Manager. One book is called “Happy” by Derren Brown (a true hero of mine), and it gave me a wider idea of what makes people happy, which is crucial to my work as an HR advocate.
All of this is part of being a purpose-driven company, which is the idea that your organization strives to make a positive impact on its workforce and its community that goes beyond the main goal of the business, typically making money.
That’s something we strongly believe in here at Reward Gateway.
I don’t feel like I’m just another employee in the workforce. I feel like the company truly cares about my wellbeing and wants to see me grow personally and professionally. Perks like the sabbatical I was able to take do just that – it helped to fulfill a passion of mine and make me a better person, and that will provide long-term gains for the organization.
I’m ready for the next step here. If your company allows you to take a break, I recommend you don’t hesitate. Come back refreshed, ready and even more passionate about your company’s purpose.
What have you gained from taking time off of work? I'd love to hear your story.