Go ahead, take that long vacation.

By Colleen Kane
March 16, 2015
March 16, 2015

Sabbaticals are being offered to employees in an increasing variety of lengths and styles. Some companies offer this benefit after as few as six months’ service, although it’s more common for employees to qualify after five or seven continuous years with a company. They’re offered in durations from a week to a year. These periods of paid time off are often used for travel, volunteering, education, with family, or a combination of several of those.

The intention is to help the employee reset and come back rejuvenated and refreshed–as an enhanced worker (not to mention human being). The examples of how people used their time off from the following 21 companies offering paid sabbaticals suggest they are successful in those goals of self-improvement and refreshment.


Adobe Systems

Photograph by Kris Tripplaar — Sipa USA/AP

At the San Jose-based software company Adobe, employees may take a sabbatical for every five years of tenure. The first sabbatical is four weeks, then at the 10-year mark employees are entitled to five weeks’ sabbatical. After 15 years, the time off increases to six weeks, and it stays at that length for every subsequent five years. Sabbaticals can also be applied to extend other leaves such as maternity or parental.

In the one-year span between April 1, 2013 and April 1, 2014, 411 employees took advantage of this benefit, including one who traveled to Romania to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity constructing houses. The Adobe Life blog shared some additional stories of employees volunteering in their time off.

See the other perks at Adobe Systems on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Arthrex

Courtesy of Arthrex, Inc.

The orthopedic supply manufacturer Arthex, based in Naples, Fla., offers its employees Years of Service Trips, and 175 employees took advantage of the benefit last year. The first one is awarded after five years and consists of a week off plus a bonus to supplement a vacation during that week. Every subsequent five years, employees are granted two weeks plus the bonus.

Years of Service Trips can also be combined with paid time off and other vacation time. One such example was an Arthrex Maintenance Technician who took a three-week European tour of Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

See the other perks at Arthrex on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Autodesk

Photograph by Jana Asenbrennerova — Getty Images

The software company Autodesk, based in San Rafael, Calif., provides six-week sabbaticals to employees every four years, and that length of the time away can be combined with other paid time off. Some 390 employees went on sabbatical last year.

Sarah Krasley, who is the senior sustainable manufacturing lead at Autodesk, wanted to use her sabbatical to “see the other side of the equation, the human impact.”  She felt greatly impacted by the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which became the purpose for her sabbatical. Krasley spent two months in Bangladesh and Cambodia with the goal of improving factory worker safety through technology and volunteering with the existing human rights efforts in those regions.

See the other perks at Autodesk on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Baker Donelson

Images of the Baker Donelson logo at their Washington DC office on February 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Fortune)
Photograph by Kris Connor — Getty Images for Fortune

The Memphis-headquartered law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz averages about one sabbatical per year, and has no formal process. Attorneys interested in taking time off can make a request which is then reviewed by the Board. A representative from Baker Donelson said that their employee sabbaticals are usually for other professional engagements like a temporary appointed government position.

See the other perks at Baker Donelson on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Boston Consulting Group

Photograph by Tory Williams

The Big Three management consulting firm provides employees with sabbaticals up to eight weeks in length after five years at the partner level, and they may take additional time off after each of the following five years of service at that level. About 8% of active partners opt to do this each year. If desired, these sabbaticals may also be extended with paid time off.

The purpose of BCG’s sabbatical program is for partners to reflect and rejuvenate. Some of the ways they’ve chosen to do this include visiting an ashram in India to meditate, or teaching at one of the country’s top business schools.

BCG also invites all consultants with more than 12 months of service to take voluntary, unpaid time off to recharge in an eight-week leave of absence program called Time for You. Participants retain the majority of employee benefits during that time off.

See the other perks at BCG on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


David Weekley Homes

David Weekley logos photographed in Houston, TX on Wednesday, February 25, 2015.
Photograph by Scott Dalton — Getty Images

The Houston-based homebuilder offers its employees sabbaticals that run a minimum of four weeks up to a maximum of six weeks. The first one is earned after 10 years of continuous employment, and then employees can take time off every eight years after that. One employee traveled around the country to visit family and sightsee, then spent a week with the grandchildren. Four employees used this benefit in 2014.

See the other perks at David Weekley on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Deloitte

Photograph by Tory Williams

The New York City-based professional services firm Deloitte offers two options for sabbaticals: one month or three to six months, which can also be combined with PTO. Professionals are eligible for the shorter option after six months of continuous service and for the longer one after two years of consecutive service. For additional sabbaticals, employees are eligible again for a one-month period off after one year of no sabbaticals and and the three-to-six month time off after they haven’t taken a one-month in a year or three-to-six months in the past three years.

One employee used their sabbatical to work on high-impact projects for Chicago’s nonprofit pro bono consulting services Civic Consulting Alliance. In 2014, 94 complete sabbaticals were taken, in addition to 21 others that overlapped with 2013 and this year.

See the other perks at Deloitte on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Genentech

Photograph by Kris Tripplaar — Sipa USA/AP

The San Francisco-based biotechnology corporation Genentech offers six-week sabbaticals to all regular full-time employees after every six years of continuous employment–and that can be used in combination with other PTO to extend the six weeks. Over the past three years, the average number of sabbaticals has been 1,232.

Genentech shared the sabbatical experience of Jorge Bandera, who is a design and construction manager in the company’s site engineering group. Bandera’s six-week sabbatical (plus one week of vacation) was spent with his family in Colombia with a stop on the way back in Disneyland, then Bandera used his remaining time at home working on projects, relaxing and going for walks. On his return, he found his colleagues had decorated his office like a Colombian jungle with stuffed animals, jungle sounds, coffee beans and more.

See the other perks at Genentech on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


General Mills

Courtesy of General Mills

The Minnesota-headquartered food corporation General Mills offers sabbaticals lasting a minimum of four weeks and maxing out at 12 weeks. To qualify, regular full-time and part-time employees must have served seven years with the company. Eleven such periods of time off were taken last year. Additional sabbaticals are earned after each subsequent seven years worked after a sabbatical is taken.

In 2012, a General Mills application architect named Brian realized his dream to canoe and camp in the wilderness along with his wife and their dog. In their 12-week trip they covered 250 miles of north Minnesota. “After being at General Mills for 25 years and being a hardcore developer, it kind of wears on you,” he said. “It was nice to be able to disconnect. By the end of it I just felt like I could do anything. I felt like I was a kid again. I had all the energy and strength and endurance that I wanted. It’s really nice that General Mills offers this to its employees,” he said.

“It was great for my personal mindset and it’s given me a different outlook on life.”

See the other perks at General Mills on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Hyland Software

Courtesy of Hyland Software

The developer of OnBase content management software, which is headquartered in Westlake, Ohio, offers employees four-week sabbaticals after eight years working for Hyland. After that, employees may take additional sabbaticals every five years. Last year, 75 sabbaticals were taken, and many employees also add their PTO to extend the length of their sabbaticals.

The most frequent use of sabbaticals among Hyland employees is international travel, and others have used their time off to focus on work with nonprofits, stay home for summer break with their children, work on an invention, and extend maternity leave.

See the other perks at Hyland on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

The Hotel Monaco sign is seen on the facade of the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurants LLC hotel in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011. Kimpton Hotel is a hospitality company that owns and manages hotels and restaurants operating in the U.S. and is based in San Francisco. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

The San Francisco-based hospitality company offers four weeks of  unplugged time to its employees after they’ve been with the company for seven years, and about 12 were taken last year.  Taking a sabbatical is optional, but the unplugged part is not.

One sabbatical taken by Marco Scherer, General Manager, Hotel Monaco Chicago was a round-the-world trip covering 46,000 miles of flights, in which he visited 10 countries, and he got to do a dozen early morning runs in every country and continent.

“I can’t put into words as to how enriched I feel after this trip,” Scherer said. “How small and very alike we all are in this world.  I got to view the different cultures and how they view hospitality service while enjoying the local cuisine!  I feel like I am now Marco 2.0 after this trip.”

See the other perks at Kimpton on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Perkins Coie

Courtesy of Perkins Coie

The Seattle-headquartered international law firm offers two months sabbatical after 10 years of service for exempt staff and 13 years for non-exempt staff. After the first one, additional two-month time off periods come every 10 years. Also, staff may add up to one month of PTO to the sabbatical for a total of three months off with full pay.

In 2014, 59 Perkins Coie employees took advantage of their sabbatical benefits, including one who took the three-month maximum to travel with his wife through China and Southeast Asia. On average 50 – 60 people take sabbaticals per year.

See the other perks at Perkins Coie on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Plante & Moran

Photograph by Jean-Marc Giboux — Getty Images

Headquartered in Southfield, Mich., the CPA and consulting services firm Plante & Moran offers partners four-week sabbaticals after seven years of service, with recurring ones every seven years. However, beginning in 2016 that requirement will be reduced to six years, with recurring ones every five years. In 2014, 25 out of the firm’s 264 partners took advantage of the benefit.

For partner John Bebes’ second sabbatical, he took a cruise with his wife and their best friends with the eventual destination in Reykjavik chosen for a marathon there. The group had to train on the cruise. “At the race, our friends ran the marathon, I ran the half marathon and my wife ran the 10K. We all set personal records at the race. We created a memory we would cherish for a lifetime.”

See the other perks at Plante & Moran on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


PricewaterhouseCoopers

Courtesy of PricewaterhouseCoopers

At the London-based professional services network, Career Milestone sabbaticals are awarded with promotions to senior manager/director and typically consist of three weeks paid time off with one week vacation time. Those employees will have been with the company more than five years. In the case of managing directors, they must have been with the company seven years. The time off may also be used to extend maternity leave.

Since 2011 when the program began, more than 2,200 eligible staff have participated. Of those, one director traveled to Africa to work with an orphanages organization to teach basic computer skills on the computers the organization was donating, and also helped install an irrigation system for crops.

See the other perks at PwC on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


QuikTrip

Courtesy of QuikTrip

Employees of the Tulsa-based convenience store chain may take a four-week sabbatical after 25 years of service, and every five years thereafter. In the current fiscal year, 71 sabbaticals have or will be taken, and in the next one, 67 will be taken.

One employee used his month-long sabbatical to tour the Western and Northern parts of the United States, and also planned and attended two NASCAR races during that time.

See the other perks at QuikTrip on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)

Photograph by Tory Williams

The Kent, Wash.-based outdoor clothing and recreational equipment retailer REI offers four-week long sabbaticals to employees who have worked 15 years, and every five years after that. They may also be combined with PTO. The average number taken annually over 2012- 2014 is 216.

John D, who has more than 40 years with REI, blogged about his sabbatical experiences and described his sabbatical project. “A conversation with a paddling partner 15 years ago inspired me to set the goal of paddling the outer Pacific coastline from Alaska to my home in Washington state.  That type of exposed route is best done as wind and weather permits so doing it in bits and pieces made the most sense.  2014 marked my 3rd REI sabbatical spent exploring the British Columbia Wild Coast and Great Bear Rainforest.  The last remaining leg is Tofino to Port Townsend.

It’s hard to imagine another employer who would teach me to paddle, encourage me to dream, help me assemble my kit and pay me to play with whales, wolves, and bears.”

See the other perks at REI on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


Ryan

Courtesy of Ryan

The Dallas-headquartered global tax services firm Ryan grants four-week sabbaticals after five years of service. Salaried employees are eligible after five years, and hourly employees are eligible after seven years, with additional sabbaticals every five years and seven years thereafter, respectively. Seven were taken last year.

One senior project manager used the four weeks to move from one home to another and take the time to properly pack and unpack, as well as relax and enjoy the new space without having to do it all on weekends and after work hours.

See the other perks at Ryan on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Courtesy of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

At St. Jude, New York’s research and treatment facility for children, sabbaticals are six months to one year long and are limited to faculty, not staff. The duration and salary are dependant on the faculty member’s length of service. Sabbaticals are offered beginning at five years, with 50% pay, and last six months, with the over 10-year seniority faculty getting full pay and a one-year span of time off.

However, there were no examples of how any faculty member’s time off was spent, nor notice of sabbaticals taken since 2006. “I’m not sure why more faculty don’t take sabbaticals.  I suspect it has something to do with the amount of creative and professional freedom they enjoy,” said Robin R. McCord, Director of HR Learning, Development & Talent Acquisition.

See the other perks at St. Jude on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


The Cheesecake Factory

Courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory

The restaurant chain headquartered in Calabasas, Calif., offers employees with at least five years of service sabbaticals of up to three weeks, with additional ones every five years thereafter. The program was just launched in 2014, and employees must give six months’ notice so none have been taken yet; but 109 staff will be eligible this year, and five are scheduled.

One employee’s plans include hiking the John Muir Trail. The employee elaborated, “It is 220 miles, 80,000 foot elevation change starting from Yosemite Valley, ending at Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. I would be hiking this with my wife and a few friends who would join for small segments, providing us re-supply. This would be to challenge me mentally and physically, drive me to get healthy and fit and to refresh by spending some quality time in nature, in deep prayer and meditation and achieve an amazing accomplishment with my best friend (my wife.)”

See the other perks at The Cheesecake Factory on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


The Container Store

Courtesy of The Container Store

The storage and container retail chain founded in Dallas offers 80 hours PTO to full time employees after their 10th year, and during their 20th they are given another 40 hours PTO, both which may be combined with other PTO. Last year, The Container Store had 109 employees celebrating their 10-year anniversary with the company and 20 marking their 20-year milestone.

One Peabody, Mass., employee was grateful to use her sabbatical and additional PTO to be with her family when her mother was injured and her father died. An employee in New York City marked both 10 years with the company and his 50th birthday by taking a land and sea tour of the Pacific Northwest — something he’d wanted to do his entire life. He said, “It’s wonderful to work for a company that celebrates tenure of employees and knows the importance of allowing time to reconnect with oneself. I came back to New York with a clear mind, refreshed spirit and reinforced positive attitude.”

See the other perks at The Container Store on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.


VMware

VMware Inc. signage is displayed at the EMC World conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, May 10, 2011. EMC Corp., the world's biggest maker of storage computers, reported a 28 percent gain in first-quarter profit last month as companies increased spending on data centers capable of delivering tasks through the Internet. Photographer: Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Ronda Churchill — Bloomberg via Getty Images

After five years working at the software company based in Palo Alto, employees are offered Take 3, which is three months to rejuvenate personally and professionally by participating in meaningful projects outside their everyday jobs, whether within VMware or at a nonprofit partner. These projects helps foster collaboration among teams that don’t normally work together. T3 is offered again every five years of continued service.

Margaret Petrus, a VMware ecosystem engineer, said of her T3 experience, “These three months were an opportunity of many firsts for me – working with different account executives all over the world, planning for proper field enablement with the heads of all three GEOs, interacting with management consulting firms, etc. For someone who has been in engineering for 15 years, this was definitely a cruise out of my comfort zone and broadened my perspective of how the different parts of a company operate. It has been a rewarding and wonderful experience for me, and I am thankful to VMware for offering this Take-3 program.”

VMware is launching Take 1 and Take 2 programs as well, offering one and two weeks of time off respectively for learning and career development.

See the other perks at VMWare on our 100 Best Companies to work for list here.

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