Sabbaticals. What’s your growth got to do with it?

Team

Posted on 25th May 2023

Last year, we launched a sabbatical policy for long-serving OpenPayders. Our Head of Talent Kinga took advantage earlier this year and shared her experience with us.

Kinga takes a sabbatical

Whenever I’m talking to possible candidates, there are a few things that come up: people want to know that they’ll have a future with the company over a number of years, and they want to enjoy benefits beyond simply receiving a salary. In the OpenPayd People team, we’re always trying to do just that.

One of the ways we’ve done that is with our sabbatical policy, and it’s a perk I’ve also been able to use myself earlier this year. So here, I wanted to share both sides of the story: why we started offering sabbaticals in the first place and what it’s like to take one as an employee.

Work isn’t what it used to be 

The time when you’d spend 20 to 30 years working within one organisation without ever questioning the purpose or meaning of your work has gone forever. Personally, I think that the average tenure will soon be four to eight years at the most – and even this may be over-optimistic. According to European Business Magazine the average tenure in the UK for a fintech employee is just 1.4 years. The highest tenure across other major countries was just two years.

 You might be wondering where I’m going with this. Is it no longer worth staying with one company for more than four years? What do you do after a few years with a company if you enjoy your work, like your team and, on top of this, are working for a company that keeps growing and brings you enough challenges to stretch your skillset? Should you consider a move? 

I’d say, before you jump into deep water – fully load your air tank so you can breathe and think clearly. Before making a significant move like changing your employer and leaving behind all that you've worked for, why not consider taking a sabbatical first?

Sabbaticals: a Win-Win

At OpenPayd we started offering sabbaticals last year. Here’s what our policy looks like: Employees who reach three years with the company can then take up to six weeks of continuous unpaid leave as a sabbatical. For those who hit five years, that doubles to 12 weeks.

Whilst it seems obvious for a Banking-as-a-Service player to offer sabbaticals when it has 1,000 people, it’s a bigger decision for a company employing around 100. Weighing the pros and cons of introducing sabbaticals, we had to consider the benefits it brings both to the organisation and the individual.

From an organisation’s standpoint, research has found that sabbatical takers report greater “clarity and self-confidence in their management skills and are keen to step up”. In addition to this, employees are able to build their skills and learn more about themselves outside of a work setting. Taking a break is linked to greater wellbeing; Academics have found sabbaticals are linked to increased performance.

But research is one thing. What I wanted to share here is my experience taking a sabbatical earlier this year. 

My sabbatical story

A sabbatical is an amazing opportunity to take a break, not only from work but from day-to-day life. Personally, I chose to use it for travel and adventure. And I’m not alone - according to a 2019 Deloitte survey, Millennials see more value in world travel than buying a home. 

Even before I started at OpenPayd, I had an idea in my head that one day I’d like to travel for more than just a couple of weeks of annual leave. When the pandemic passed and our lives started going back to “normal”, escaping the reality of a London winter seemed like perfect timing. 

Even with that idea in the back of my head, it was difficult to make the decision. But before I knew it, my one-way ticket to Melbourne was booked. The rest was an adventure of new places, new people, new life skills, like diving 30 metres deep on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Yes it was great fun, but travelling requires a lot of planning and self-discipline if you want to experience what the world has to offer. Here’s one example: To go on a 12k basewalk around one of the most magical places on the planet, Uluru in central Australia, you have to get up at 4am and be ready to walk in 39-degree heat!  It’s at that moment you really miss your 6.30am alarm and having a cup of coffee in an air-conditioned office. 

Travel also puts you into reflection mode and brings your European, “entitled” thinking mode into a new perspective. Talking to the locals in Indonesia who are cultivating local coffee or rice fields and have two days a month off makes you feel like shutting up about your two months off. Another day, seeing a heavily pregnant lady working 12-hour days on a stall selling young (heavy) coconuts to tourists, wielding a machete I couldn’t even lift, really puts your life in perspective. Seeing other people’s worlds definitely makes you rethink your approach to work and appreciate what you have. 

Living in one city for a while and meeting the same people, even in multicultural London, narrows your mindset. When travelling, you meet different people and have different conversations – even when making eggs for breakfast in a hostel kitchen – and you meet different people on daily tours. It’s definitely a great opportunity to learn about different lifestyles and life choices. 

The bottom line

I know from my experience that sabbaticals are a win-win for both the organisation offering a sabbatical and the individual pursuing it. And if you’re planning a sabbatical yourself or just thinking about whether you should take one in the future, trust me: It’s worth it. Just remember to make a plan early on, be clear on what you want to get out of it, and don’t be afraid to take the risk. Overall, thank you to OpenPayd for giving me this opportunity. 

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