Suggestions for a Successful Sabbatical

I drove away from the Atlanta offices of Jackson Spalding on June 25, 2014, and felt a pang of sadness. It was a moment I’d been anticipating for 18 months, and yet I sat at a traffic light on Crescent Avenue and experienced reluctance rather than the elation I had anticipated. I was beginning a month-long sabbatical with a bit of vacation time added on. I’d be away for several weeks – an experience I’d had before but on a maternity leave. There was no newborn this time, just the opportunity to take a break from the daily routine and embark on new adventures.
The term Sabbatical is actively derived from the biblical “Sabbath,” which refers to an ancient human need to build periods of rest and rejuvenation in a lifetime. To inspire a healthy work-life balance, Jackson Spalding encourages team members to take vacation time and rewards employees with a four-week, paid sabbatical after 10 years. This year, two of my JS colleagues were granted July sabbaticals as well. Each of us had planned an exciting family trip along with some “down time.” Gene traveled to Jackson, Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park. Trudy went whale watching in Washington. 

After an evening of separation anxiety, on June 26th I decided that although I would miss my colleagues, clients and account work – it was time to make the most of this opportunity. My adventure began.

The travel portion of my sabbatical was transformative. My family and I experienced different cultures and cuisines and new people and places in an adventure that we will always cherish. When we returned to the comforts of home, we relaxed, reflected and reconnected. I had the freedom to spend quality time with my friends, my family or myself. I read several books and accomplished “to-dos” that were high and low on my list. When my kids went back to school and I returned to JS in August, I was ready to jump in and work again. 
Sabbaticals may be seen as an opportunity to reward and retain employees, but there are definitely benefits to both the employee and the employer. Once I “let go,” I had the opportunity to ditch my routine and pursue meaningful endeavors on my own. Ultimately, I returned to work with fresh focus and great appreciation of our firm, our people, our sabbatical offering and its benefits. 
Five Suggestions for a Successful Sabbatical 
Here are a few tips for my JS team members – or anyone fortunate enough to have a sabbatical in their future:

1.  Let go – This is time designated for you. Unplug from work and enjoy. 

2.  Get away if you can – While staycation is wonderful, an extended time off provides an opportunity to travel and immerse yourself in a new place, a different culture and unique experiences.

3.  Learn and grow – Traditionally sabbaticals have been granted to college professors and other educators to pursue research or travel, but they’ve gone mainstream. The premise of expanding an area of study or interest is a good way to achieve personal growth and learn something new and different. 

4.  Take time for family and yourself – As a working mom I greatly appreciated the time off with my children, but I took additional days off after my kids returned to school and focused on myself. 

5.  Break the routine – Try new things and be spontaneous. With no set schedule, opportunities abound.