src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/09/fernando-torres-Qyv-yxExIbM-unsplash.jpg” alt=”I Took 7 Weeks Off Work After Hiring 3 New Teammates, Here’s Why It Worked Out”>
I was able to take seven weeks off work in July and August this year. This experience was fully compensated. To take a break from my job, I was able to benefit from our generous sabbatical policies (more details below).
It was a busy year. I had two new colleagues join me in February, then another in April. They all report to me. So timing was critical to get everyone operational and onboard before I went on sabbatical. After having just brought in three new colleagues, I was a little nervous about taking a long break from work. My absence ended up helping my team to take more control of their work and highlight processes that I did not need to be involved.
It can be difficult to take time off work, but it can be extremely rewarding. Both my team and I gained new perspectives.
This article will discuss sabbaticals at Buffer and how I set it up while I was away. It also explains why it worked so well.
Our Sabbatical Policy
Buffer offers sabbaticals to team members who have been with the company for at least five years. Each teammate is eligible to take a full-paid sabbatical. They can spend it as they wish, whether that’s traveling, working on a side project or helping a non profit, with their family, or achieving a personal goal.
For every five years of Buffer, we offer six weeks of sabbatical. Each additional year that is not taken a sabbatical will add another week, bringing the total to twelve weeks.
In February, I celebrated six years of service at Buffer. Therefore, I was eligible to take a seven-week sabbatical. Since 2019, I am one of 22 people to have taken sabbaticals at Buffer.
How I created the support team while I was away
The communications and content team is comprised of two content authors (you might have seen Tami or Umber on our blog) and one social media manager. You may remember Mitra from Instagram and TikTok videos, but you can see Mitra everywhere. We also work with other agencies.
Everybody’s sabbatical planning is different. For me, however, I concentrated on my three coworkers first. Here are the ways they were supported.
1:1s with another manager
Each person has weekly 1:1s. In my absence, they had bi-weekly 1:1s to continue receiving support.
Connecting to my manager
Some companies use “skip level 1s” to allow their team members to communicate with their managers. Joel is our CEO. While I was gone, Joel did a group call to check in with the team and see how they were doing. Although this isn’t a skip level, it’s a similar idea.
The original blog content process was that all was being edited by me. Peer reviews were instituted for all blog posts that I did not edit. Although social posts are not always reviewed, there are many options for peer review on company posts.
This was the time for new mastermind pairings. Each teammate was paired up with a mastermind partner. These pairings are meant to bring together two colleagues who don’t work together often to share their challenges and offer a different perspective. As the relationship develops, they become more complex. Learn more about how Buffer manages masterminds.
Each agency relationship I had with someone involved was familiar with the way we collaborated. That person became the primary contact. I also assigned multiple contacts to ensure that our agency partners had options.
Documentation available for everyone
We have an excellent internal handbook and a marketing wiki. In the last year, I have been working to create systems that allow us to regularly document best practices and processes in Notion. Sometimes we even include a Loom video.
Before I went on sabbatical I asked my coworkers questions such as:
- Are you not knowledgeable enough about the following topics?
- What do you fear would happen?
- Are you unsure about any of the following processes?
- Do you feel confident that you will be able to access all the information you require?
Then, I made videos and wrote documentation about everything that came up.
All documentation related to specific tools was already prepared. I double-checked it several times to make sure it was complete.
After months of setting up everything for success, I was able to feel complete confidence in my team. I sent my out-of office reply and was completely disconnected from work for seven weeks.
Benefits of staying away for seven weeks
I expected things to go smoothly because I believed everyone was prepared. I also knew that there was a support system, but surprised me at how well things ran without me. (Maybe I should take a sabbatical each year? )
There were many positive effects that I observed.
In this time, my team grew by a lot.
To improve your decision-making abilities, there’s nothing better than a quick gut check with someone. All of us heard that confidence was built by making decisions without me being involved. This was particularly true for me because I was a new coworker and the practice of managing things myself was part of the initial onboarding. It can be difficult to break a habit once it is established. Each person took more control over their projects and area.
We questioned our processes
One of the questions that I asked each person in our first 1:1 was about what processes I might like to revisit. Things I had been holding onto that I gave to others temporarily ended with me sometimes keeping them because the new process was more logical. In one instance, it was a new primary contact at an agency that we collaborate with. Another example was peer reviews, which proved to be both enjoyable and useful, so we kept them.
Also, we realized that there wasn’t a lot of collaboration in the content calendar before my departure. My coworkers were still in onboarding so I was planning everything. After everyone had been onboarded we began an editorial review. This allows for more collaboration in the content calendar planning.
Also, areas that were not documented or unclear due to being away from home also became apparent. These were all minor things, such as choosing the right cover photo for blog posts. However, this meant that there was still room for improvement in communication around these things.
Final results were that decisions were made without my involvement. This allowed teammates to feel more empowered in their respective roles and areas. Our team processes also improved, making them feel much stronger. All of this made me happy!
What could have been better?
I was asking myself, “Could things be better?” I believe there is always room for improvement. The most important thing was to ensure that my team had sufficient connections throughout the company. Although they are connected to one another and to other members of our Marketing team it can be difficult for new colleagues at remote companies to feel connected. It can be difficult to make connections without a manager. If I had to change one thing it would be making sure there are more connections between my teammates, and other leaders at Buffer.
More to you
As a new manager, have you ever taken time off from work? How was it? Do you have questions about the sabbatical policy of Buffer? We’d love for you to send us a Tweet!
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