Episode 016: Employee Sabbaticals and Why TEN7 Offers Them
Surprise! Sabbaticals are not the exclusive privilege of academia. Well, at least not at TEN7. Listen in and found out why we award employees with sabbaticals to refresh and restore. An employment benefit indeed!
Here's what we're discussing in this podcast:
- What is a sabbatical?
- How did employee sabbaticals come about at TEN7?
- What are the parameters of a TEN7 employee sabbatical?
- What did Ivan do on his sabbatical?
- How did the staff respond to Ivan's extended absence?
JONATHAN FREED: Hello! You're listening to a TEN7 audiocast. We're here today to discuss employees' Sabbaticals with IVAN Stegic, our Founder and President. I'm Jonathan Freed, Account Happiness Manager at TEN7. Hello, Ivan!
IVAN STEGIC: Hello, Jonathan!
JONATHAN: How about a general discussion on Sabbaticals and what your understanding of what a Sabbatical might be?
IVAN: So, I don't think I've ever actually looked up the definition of a Sabbatical. But I know people who've taken Sabbaticals and usually, they are professors or tenured positions at Universities. And usually, their job’s still there when they get back. It's an extended vacation to do some sort of focused research, or focused meditation, something that gives you time away from what you're doing everyday to recuperate or regenerate and to come back to your position energized and just eager to get back to doing what you were doing previously and probably even at a better level. So that that's kind of my understanding of what a general Sabbatical is. Is that what you think it is too?
JONATHAN: I've always thought of that as an academic issue. That's why when I started a year ago, and Lex went on Sabbatical, and then to find out that we did Sabbaticals after a certain service period. How did you come up with the idea for the Sabbatical for TEN7?
IVAN: Well, I have to be honest and say that it wasn't my idea, it is the result of a conversation in a one-on-one that I had with Les. That's one of the many things that come out of our one-on-ones that I'm just really glad that we have these things. And this was about three years ago, Les and I sat down for our regular monthly one-on-one, and it was in the midst of a project, one of these larger projects that we tend to do, and Les has been working on that project as the only developer and that was his main focus. And we had been talking about what we're going to be doing in the summer and maybe what was coming up in the fall. He had talked about how he, once upon a time, had hoped that he'd be able to take a year-long Sabbatical wherever he was. And it dawned on me that he wasn't a professor at a University. And it dawned on me that that would be something that I could probably enable if I did all the research and looked to see what all the parameters were around, what we could afford to do, so in my mind, Les kind of planted that seed of the Sabbatical, he wanted to do something like that. When he planted that seed I went ahead and ran with it. We can't offer an annual Sabbatical, or even a Sabbatical that lasts for a year. But we do have some parameters around what a Sabbatical is. In TEN7 offers a month off that's paid in addition to any PTO you already have. That was kind of the genesis of it. It came from Les, and I thought it was a good idea and I made it happen.
JONATHAN: I have been in this business for a very long time, and I have never encountered a company that offers Sabbaticals to its employees. I want to go back to parameters. Give us some of these established parameters for a TEN7 Sabbatical.
IVAN: Sure! The TEN7 Sabbatical is a benefit that you get for working at TEN7. It's not actually written into a contract, it's something that, it's kind of an understanding between the company and the employee. If you remain at TEN7 for 4 years or more, you get to take 1 week off for every one of the years you're with TEN7. And so you get to take 4 weeks off in addition to any paid time off whenever you want to, after you've been with TEN7 for 4 years. We really haven't figured out what happens with the next Sabbatical, we don't have any rules or regulations around that just yet, but we do need to formalize the Sabbatical somehow and then figure out what we're going to do for people who have already taken the Sabbatical and want to take another one. The other parameters around Sabbatical are actually quite easy. On your Sabbatical, it's encouraged that you don't do anything that's related to TEN7 or anything that's related to the work you're doing at TEN7. It is fully encouraged that you completely disconnect and unplug. And that when you come back, you tell us something about what you did on your Sabbatical. You are also expected to prep before you leave so that whatever responsibilities you do have can be covered by remaining team members. So that when you're gone, we don't need to send you a text message or contact you to disturb you, because we have an issue that we can't resolve. It's important that you have that time away so that you can actually do something you've always wanted to do and not have to worry about whether or not your job's gonna be there when you come back. You might want to travel. I took my Sabbatical at the end of June and just got back in mid-August and I completely disconnected. And there have been two other Sabbaticals that were taken previous to mine, and that was Les and Lex and they were both gone for a month at a time and the company did just fine and our clients were happy and they were all pleased in some instances to know that the person that they were working with was getting some well-deserved time off.
JONATHAN: You just returned from your Sabbatical.
JONATHAN: How did you get along six weeks without us?
IVAN: (laughs) Well, I know you're surprised to hear this, but it was very easy to actually not have to work. I spent the first six months of the year making sure that everything that I was doing could be done by someone else and transferring all of my responsibilities to more than one person. So that was kind of the bulk of my work at the beginning half of this year. And I think that allowed me to disconnect without worrying while I was away. At the end of June, is when I started my Sabbatical, and on the fourth of July, my family and I, all five us, went overseas and spent a month in England. I was well-disconnected. I did have the ability to surf the web and read email but i chose not to. That was one of the best decisions I made. We spent time, basically, just kind of hanging out, and looking at the sights, and then spent a week when I got back from abroad, kind of hanging out at home with the family. I didn't read e-mail, I didn't pick the phone up, I received a few text messages from you, Jonathan, when it was absolutely necessary, but other than that, that was kind of the sum total of my interaction with TEN7. And that's honestly the first time in ten years that that's happened. So the first week back has been slow-going for me, but I think after five days in the office and now my sixth, I think I'm okay. I think I'm running again.
JONATHAN: And you look marvelous!
IVAN: Oh, thank you! (laughs) Not that I look any different.
JONATHAN: No. I think just being away from the worry and stress really can change, not only your brain, but also can change your physical appearance as well.
IVAN: It does, but you know what, I didn't have a whole lot of stress or worried about the people or the company while I was gone, you guys are awesome. Everything worked and operated just as it should have. And kudos to everything that, to everyone that was here. What do you think your greatest gain was with me being away? Personally, and maybe as a team.
JONATHAN: I can relate when I first got my driver's license, and my dad handed me the keys to the car and told to be careful. And pulling away from the house, by myself, in an automobile for the first time in my life, knowing what are the responsibility was that I had at hand. And after surviving that issue, how proud I was of myself, and I know how my father was so happy that he was able to let me go without killing myself. And I felt the same way about the company, we, I think there were some concern when you'd left because of the fact that was your company, and then we were responsible now for your company for the first time. And I don't think there was a blip. I'm really proud of the staff, how everybody just kept it going status quo. There were very few if any problems. The biggest problem I had was deciding what I had to text message you or not. That was always an issue, but I always skirted around that as much as we could and I don't think you were bothered that much.
IVAN: I wasn't. No.
JONATHAN: So, it went really well. We did get to zoom once or twice which was great. And since we're do it on a regular basis anyway, so that was fun. But I think overall, I think we gained a sense of accomplishment and personal achievement as result of being able to carry on without the boss being there. Why don't you tell us what your main benefit that you've gained from this endeavor is?
IVAN: I think there are so many. So, I got rest, I think that was the greatest benefit, of taking some time off. You can get rest on a short amount of time, I think that benefit of an extended period for me was the ability to spend some time kind of disconnecting, 'cause it's not just a switch on and switch off. It takes a little bit of time to kind of power down and to relax and so I appreciated the amount of time. And knowing that TEN7 was in good hands, was further an amount of stress that was reduced because I didn't have to worry about what was going to happen operationally. If we're gonna get paid, if payroll's going to happen, if invoices wouldn’t go out, if clients are gonna be happy. I didn't have to worry all that. We have all the people. The biggest gain for me was rest, but not just plain rest, extended rest with reduced stress. I think that was amazing. And then spending time with my family, my kids, and seeing them look at another country, and learn about the different place, and learn about public transportation and hailing a cab and all of that was wonderful as well. That was a great personal gain I think as well. And I enjoyed my time with the fam.
JONATHAN: I think you left something out.
IVAN: What's that?
JONATHAN: Your visit to Portwenn.
IVAN: Yes. That was incredible! So Port Isaac on the northern shore in Cornwall, where the wonderful series Doc Martin from BBC was filmed. We happened to be there on the last week they were filming Series 8, and our excursion to walk through the town of Port Isaac or Portwenn when we ran into Doc Martin who is as tall as I am, Burt who was sitting down, Luisa who was rushing passed on her way to set. And then numerous other characters, my favorite of course, was PC Penhale, he was in the jeep that he runs around in, so that was really great. And that little town is just beautiful. I would highly encourage you to visit if you ever get a chance to go to Cornwall.
JONATHAN: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
IVAN: Yeah. Who's the next one to go? I feel like it might be Jason. Jason might be the one who's going to be up next for a Sabbatical. So, it'll be interesting to hear when he takes his.
JONATHAN: IVAN, I want to thank you so much for your time in sharing this great story about employee sabbaticals.
IVAN: You're welcome.
JONATHAN: That brings us to the end of this audiocast. Please visit us at TEN7.com and keep an eye out on the TEN7 blog for future audiocasts. This is Jonathan Freed and thank you for listening.