Apr 17, 2024

The ROI of the Sabbatical: Tips and Insights from Our Team

Apr 17, 2024

Wealth Architects
What’s the most important thing in your life that you haven’t made enough time for? It never feels like the “right time” to take a sabbatical from work because we tend to feel already like we’re short on time. If you’re like most of us, the last person in line for our own time is…ourselves. That’s why a sabbatical can be so necessary and beneficial to us.

But in a workforce where only about 5% of employers offer paid sabbaticals and 11% unpaid,1 how do you do it? If you’re an employee, you might consider raising the conversation with your company leaders. If you’re a leader, we encourage you to learn more about the benefits of sabbaticals and consider offering them to your team.

While we race through life to achieve our big goals, overcome hurdles and navigate transitions, it’s easy to forget to step back and assess our overall well-being. Yet doing so allows us to evaluate if we’re really living a purposeful and wealthy life and, if not, what we need to change. Taking time to reflect and recalibrate – to ensure our time and resources are aligned with what matters most to us – helps us tackle all aspects of our lives with a healthier mindset and greater success. We believe that goes for both the employee and the employer. It’s a win-win.

Building a wealthier life is all about finding that alignment; but it doesn’t happen by default. It must be an intentional and continual choice. That’s why Wealth Architects asks that every team member, after 10 years of service, goes on a three-month, paid sabbatical to reflect on their well-being. It can be intimidating to remove ourselves from our work, but we find that the value that can come from it far exceeds the short-term inconveniences.

Two leaders at our firm, Founder & Chief Wealth Architect Mark T. Johnsen and Wealth Architect Iris Nguyen, share their sabbatical tips and insights below.

PREPARATION

Making the proper arrangements ahead of time will help you feel more at ease and present during your sabbatical. Based on her own experience, Iris suggests preparing at work as early as possible and considering the following:

  • Timing: Figure out what time period makes the most sense to take your sabbatical, from both a work and personal-life standpoint. If you have a partner or children, consider their work and school schedules.
  • Coverage: Give yourself enough runway to make necessary arrangements and then trust the process. Get comfortable delegating. If you have clients, assign each to a colleague’s care. Thoughtfully inform each client of your time away and assure them that they are in great hands. Write down important notes to share with your team. You might also consider using this time to help less experienced colleagues step into more learning and growth opportunities in your absence.
  • Fears: It can be intimidating and anxiety-provoking to step away. As part of your preparation, try to process some of those thoughts and work on shifting your mindset ahead of time.

Iris:
“The hardest part for me was learning to let go. I’d worked since I was 14 and never took off more than a week or two at one time. Taking three months off almost felt like a piece of my identity got taken away. My first week on sabbatical, I tried logging into my work accounts and I wasn’t able to sign in. I’m a workaholic and didn’t know how to stop myself. I appreciated that my company helped me create that boundary. It gave me permission to let go, which was so crucial.”

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT TIME?

Here’s the exciting and scary part: it’s totally up to you. 

You might think about following a framework like the one Mark developed after taking his first sabbatical, which he refers to as The Four R’s. He recommends using this unique time to:

  • Rejuvenate: Recharge your battery and fill up the tank of gas.
  • Reconnect: Disconnect from everything – go completely offline except for emergencies – so you can meaningfully reconnect with those you love.
  • Reflect: Count your blessings and clarify your purpose in the next phase of your life.
  • Refocus: Reimagine the vision for your life and your work upon your return.

For Iris, rejuvenation meant getting more sleep, improving her diet and exercise regimen and prioritizing her self-care. She embraced being “off the clock” and not having to stick to a particular schedule. She still took care of the kids and her family’s needs, but was able to do it on her own time and at her own pace. Creating a structured sabbatical does not require creating a fixed schedule. “Learning how to accept and embrace leisure was huge for me,” Iris says. “For a person who’s worked all my life, that’s a foreign concept. But you’re allowed to sit and do nothing sometimes.”

She also used the time to be more present with her kids and with friends she hadn’t seen in a while and to create high quality time together. This included taking two family trips, attending more of her older daughter’s diving practices at UC-Davis and helping her younger daughter prepare to go to high school that fall. “Prior to the sabbatical, my phone was attached to me all the time because I had to be so responsive,” says Iris. “I eventually found myself barely touching my phone at all during this time.”

SABBATICAL TAKEAWAYS

Sometimes we run too hard toward certain milestones in our careers or financial wealth and we run out of fuel for the other things that matter. Mark and Iris used their sabbaticals to reestablish connection with the other important elements of their lives and, ultimately, return to work stronger for it.

Mark:
“I will never forget those three months and the reconnection I made with myself and my family. I am extremely grateful for the personal growth that taking this leap allowed me. I returned to work with a new energy and enthusiasm. It was the sense of a new beginning. I felt an immense appreciation for those around me who gave me the opportunity and encouraged me to take that time. It doesn’t end there. Finding our alignment and well-being is an ongoing process. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s also invigorating and freeing.”

Iris:
“This experience sparked a paradigm shift in me and guided me toward a more balanced lifestyle that has helped me be a better person, advisor, wife and mom. That’s what a sabbatical can provide: a reprieve from what you do daily so that you can recuperate, get refreshed and find balance. I was so used to taking care of everybody else – my clients, my family members – and my biggest ‘aha moment’ was giving myself permission to prioritize myself, too, without feeling guilty about it. I still have a bent towards being work-oriented, but I make a point not to neglect myself anymore, like I had been, and I recognize that it’s ok to take time off sometimes. Lastly, I was left with a deeper appreciation for my clients (who I missed a lot) and my colleagues. My team had my back – they took care of everything and they gave me a gift of not having to worry about anything while I was away. When I came back, I was able to slide back into my role seamlessly.”

The Wealth Architects philosophy, one that we work hard to instill in our clients, is the importance of building wealthy, well-rounded and fulfilling lives. To authentically serve our clients on that journey and to embody the firm’s philosophy ourselves, our team is committed to incorporating the same practices in our own lives.


Footnotes:
1) https://www.pcbb.com/bid/2023-07-31-sabbaticals-a-new-trend-to-prevent-burnout-and-resignations

Copyright © 2024 Wealth Architects, LLC

The information provided in this commentary is intended to be informative and not intended to be advice relative to any investment or portfolio offered through Wealth Architects.  The views expressed in this commentary reflect the opinion of the author based on data available as of the date this article [essay] was written and is subject to change without notice. This commentary is not a complete analysis of any sector, industry or security. Individual investors should consult with their financial advisor before implementing changes in their portfolio based on opinions expressed. The information provided in this commentary is not a solicitation for the investment management or other services offered by Wealth Architects.  References incorporated into the report [essay] from third party sources are as of the date specified and are believed to be reliable.  Wealth Architects is not responsible for errors in the third party data.