Keith Timko, Support Center Executive Director, Reflects on Sabbatical Policy

August 8, 2021
Re: Reflecting on a Sabbatical

In April of 2021, Support Center’s board and management implemented a four week sabbatical policy for staff after five years of service (you can see the fine print of the policy here). Having served as the executive director at Support Center since January 2016, I was eligible and elected to take a four week sabbatical from June 24, 2021 to July 26, 2021.

Now that we’ve had a chance to kick the proverbial tires of this new policy, I’d offer a few thoughts for others to support the creation and use of a sabbatical policy.

Build Systems and Shared Leadership to Support Sabbaticals
Succession planning and sustainability planning are designed to mitigate an over reliance upon any one individual. Often these efforts help to answer questions such as “what would we do if someone is on leave or leaves the organization entirely?” Improved knowledge management ensures access to information and institutional history in someone’s absence, and shared leadership lets processes and decisions move forward during a sabbatical. Ideally, we miss a team member during this extended absence but don’t feel compromised or “stuck” without them.

Ensure Equitable Sabbatical Access
There are undoubtedly blind spots in Support Center’s sabbatical policy, and we welcome suggestions or input. However, it’s important that we have a sabbatical policy in place that is available to all staff based upon years of service. Ideally this supports talent recruitment and retention throughout the organization. Furthermore, the work needs to be done to ensure that all staff feel comfortable taking that time when they are eligible.

Truly Unplug and Recharge During a Sabbatical
Coming back from a cross-country sabbatical with my family that allowed us to experience a mixture of history, food, culture and natural wonder, I feel recharged, renewed and restored in a host of ways. But this is as true for vacations as it is for a four week sabbatical: let’s agree to let our out-of-office reply do what it is supposed to do and take the time to relax, unwind and not be on a schedule. And when it’s our turn to hold things down, let’s remind our colleagues to not look at their emails and get some well-deserved distance, perspective and space.

There’s plenty more to talk about here regarding sabbaticals, and if you’d like to chat more about a sabbatical policy or another organizational challenge, please feel free to reach out to us during our office hours.