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We've introduced sabbaticals. Here's why.

Tim Deeson

Jun 17 2016

Sabbaticals

We’ve just introduced five week paid sabbaticals across the agency, due every five years. This was inspired in part by my own recent sabbatical, which you can read about here.

At first glance sabbaticals may just seem like some costly extra holiday to cover. But there are a multitude of hidden benefits to be gained from them, for both individuals and organisations. I believe sabbaticals will support our culture in some powerful ways.

The scheme

Every five years everyone receives an additional 15 days paid holiday. This is combined with 10 days of their normal holiday from that year to create a five week sabbatical. Eligibility is retrospective, meaning that some people are already working on the details of taking a family backpacking!

We’ve made it mandatory to make sure we all focus on the challenge of making it happen, rather than postponing it. The harder it feels to organise taking it, the more likely you are to need it! There is no guidance on how it should be used but there is one rule - no contact with work except in case of dire emergency.

Creating the optimal workplace

One of our goals at Deeson is to create an optimal working environment. Large companies have a reputation for being inflexible when it comes to their employees’ time and working methods, often leading to demotivation and stress.

On the flipside, there are freelancers who enjoy the freedoms of flexible working, but none of the security or benefits of working as part of a long-term team. We want to strike the ideal balance between these two extremes; a workplace that’s frictionless, facilitates consistently great work and promotes personal growth.

We’ve already put several systems in place that allow for this; for example we use flexible working patterns, and the option to work from anywhere within Europe. We also champion autonomy over micro-management, with self-organising teams that reflect this. Sabbaticals are yet another way we can provide people with a smarter working culture, allowing individuals the time to pursue personal dreams or try new things, thus giving them a greater sense of purpose. They’re a great fit for an agency that thinks about the bigger picture.

Building long term teams

People don’t leave very often at Deeson- that’s a great problem to have. We want to recognise and reward the people who are sharing this journey with us and build a sustainable model with them. Giving sabbaticals at the five-year mark allows us to honour the long term relationships we’ve built so far and give them firm foundations for another five years.

Mitigating the risks

Digital agencies are fast paced, and burnout is a real issue in the industry. But there’s another, stealthier risk to take into account, and that’s inertia. No matter how fast paced or intellectually challenging a job is, there’s always the risk of getting stuck in a certain perspective or approach.

Packaging up our jobs and handing them over serves as a useful inoculation against these issues, providing a tangible break in which to re-energise ourselves and reset our thinking. This disrupts our normal routine and gives us fresh, exciting experiences to draw from. It creates a renewed sense of perspective, a feeling of being invigorated, and a readiness to tackle challenges head on - exactly the mindset that we aim to cultivate at Deeson.

Work-life balance

Lastly, it goes without saying that life is ultimately about more than just work - no matter how much you love your job. We have to pursue what makes us feel happy, creative and motivated, in all areas of our lives. Implementing simple, effective initiatives like these help us to create a compelling work-life balance that’s sustainable for everyone. This in turn creates happier, healthier and more productive teams. With this in mind, when it comes to sabbaticals, I believe everyone wins.

Tim Deeson

About the author

Tim Deeson

Agency Founder

Tim's focus at the agency is culture and growth, including new services and technologies. Recent work has centred on self-organising teams and how the digital sector can become more inclusive.