The tide has shifted – the most skilled, hard-working and creative people generally gravitate to places where they can do meaningful work and demand environments that invest in their personal growth. Along with generous paid time off and paid parental leave, the sabbatical program at Deloitte Digital is a manifestation of this kind of culture–one that encourages rest in order to be more productive, resourceful and creative.
In sports, the offseason is a much-needed time for recovery and revitalization from a strenuous season. It is an opportunity to reflect on the wins and losses of the past and set new goals for the future. And as a college athlete, it was my opportunity to develop new skills and get stronger. In our careers, in work, there is no offseason. There is no scheduled, extended period of time for revitalization and skill development. For many, it seems risky to take time away from the office, especially when we’ve worked so hard to get the opportunities we have.
But in my career as a college athlete, I understood the benefits of the offseason and made the time count. And so now in my professional career as a designer, Deloitte Digital’s sabbatical program was my opportunity to create an offseason, to create a dedicated period of time to grow and come back stronger than before.
Even Michael Jordan took a sabbatical from basketball. Here’s why you, too, should consider taking a sabbatical:
We all go through natural cycles of high and low levels of creativity. A sabbatical is an opportunity to elevate your level of creativity for the long haul. By placing myself in a new environment, I gained a new perspective and created a space to experiment with new ideas. I volunteered with a local community group and dedicated time to learn from leaders in my industry. The tactics used to replenish creativity can be different, but having the space and the time to reconnect and rededicate oneself to a craft is essential
Making habits and breaking habits – it’s difficult. Until I took a sabbatical I didn’t realize how many unconscious habits I had developed--habits that were not always aligned to where I thought I wanted to spend my time. Taking a sabbatical allowed me to separate myself from my habits, reflect on my patterns of behavior—like when and how often I worked out— and reassert my personal values.
In college, I woke up every morning at 5 a.m. to go to practice. We ran drills on the field and lifted. It was awesome, and I miss it. Working out gives me more energy for other activities and helps me focus and clear my mind. Physically and mentally, I wasn’t where I wanted to be before I started my sabbatical. By reprioritizing physical workouts and mental and spiritual activities during my sabbatical, I am now physically stronger, mentally fitter, and ready to continue to build upon this foundation
There are new versions of software every week. It is difficult to stay up to speed with the latest version of a familiar software tool, yet alone develop new skills with unfamiliar tools. During my sabbatical, I was able to dedicate hundreds of hours to developing new skills, and I now have a broader set of tools to choose from. There is no secret to developing new skills – it takes practice.
The necessity to set goals and, once those are met, set new goals, is true in sports and in life. Goals are the fire that feed the competitor to reach higher and strive further. A sabbatical is an opportunity to reflect on goals accomplished and set new goals for the future; to push oneself to reach new heights; and to come back to the playing field better, stronger, faster than before.
So, what do you think? Would you ever consider taking a sabbatical?
Ashley Starks Amin creates at the intersection of design and technology – to build better solutions for citizens and our communities. She is a senior consultant with Deloitte Digital and a master’s candidate in Strategic Design and Management at Parsons New School for Design