Dec 4th 2020

Sabbaticals – Building a great place to work

Sabbaticals have become part and parcel of workplace culture at Babel. A chance to recharge batteries, kick start creativity and reward loyalty. As part of Babel’s benefits package, the company offers a number of policies designed to encourage a healthy work/life balance and create an enjoyable and open place to work. These include a Babel Break, a 20-minute daily escape from screens; a two-hour lunchbreak, monthly; and of course, our paid sabbatical leave, which employees receive after three years.

So how do team members make the most of their month off? COO, Narelle Morrison, commented, “Employees typically make their paid sabbatical leave count. They schedule big events on their bucket list or a series of smaller activities and experiences. Either way, they return recharged, focused, and a little bit wiser – with some amazing life experiences to share.” I wanted to find out more.

A trip down memory lane – team members’ sabbaticals

I spoke first to Jen, Senior Campaign Manager at Babel. She’s been with the agency for six years now and enjoyed a month’s sabbatical last year. “For me, it’s a nice reward for loyalty, especially in such a high turnover industry,” Jen told me. “It gives you a brilliant time to reset.” I wondered what she did during her month away from the office? “I fulfilled a lifetime dream to go to Australia. I got to see so many places – Brisbane, Noosa, Sydney and Alice Springs. It was amazing and I returned to the office reenergised and refreshed. I felt rejuvenated!”

She’s not the only one. Chatting over coffee to members of the team I found others who had benefitted from the sabbatical scheme or hoped to do so in the future. Paul, an Associate Director who has been at Babel for eight years, revealed that he had used his sabbatical leave to enjoy a real milestone: he got married and then went on a two-week honeymoon to India. “It was truly amazing and so memorable. And despite taking time off for this life-defining moment, I still had some holiday time left to enjoy our first few weeks as a married couple.”

Everyone I spoke to recognised that working within such a fast-paced environment like PR is incredibly rewarding. However, this also means that being able to take breaks from work is really important. “PR is all-encompassing, and it can be difficult to switch off, but during my time at Babel, Ian (our CEO) and Narelle (our COO) have always emphasised the importance of a good work/life balance,” added Paul.

When I was on my lunchbreak I called Dan, PR and Digital Marketing Manager at Babel. Still tanned, Dan told me he had only recently returned from his sabbatical – he enjoyed two weeks hopping the Greek Islands, followed by a week at a resort in Sicily. “It’s been a tiring year and so it felt like it was a good time to take it,” he explained. But for Dan, the sabbatical also provided an opportunity to reflect upon his time at Babel. “I think having that extended break really allows you to think about your time at a company. How you handle challenges, how you organise yourself in your day-to-day work life, and what you’re going to achieve in your role moving forward.”

For many, the constant, fast-paced working environment doesn’t always lend itself to self-reflection. The sabbatical period allows the individual to reflect on their work, acknowledging what’s working well, and where there is room for improvement.

How can a sabbatical benefit you?

There are three key takeaways here. First, discussions with each team member showed that within such a fast-paced working environment, taking a sabbatical is a much-needed work benefit, and allows individuals to return to the office reenergised and refreshed. This lends itself to my second point, which is the importance of feeling valued within your company. Not only does this benefit the individual and show employees that hard work is being recognised, but it also benefits the company as it will inevitably result in highly motivated and loyal team members.

Finally, self-development. Of course, we all want a month of paid leave to travel, explore, and sun ourselves in tropical destinations. But how can we use this time to really drive our personal and professional development? Taking an extended break allows individuals to reflect on their working achievements thus far; we gain an understanding of our strengths and our weaknesses. Ultimately, we return from our sabbaticals, older, wiser, and more prepared to not only continue in our roles, but continue to be better and more successful than before.

Sabbaticals: part of an award-winning workplace culture at Babel

The importance of a great work/life balance is at the core of Babel’s organisational structure, and ensuring everyone feels valued here is key. All employees want to feel appreciated for their efforts and this culture is beneficial to both employer and employee.

One of the things that drew me to Babel initially was the agency’s strong workplace culture. This attention to employee wellbeing hasn’t only been noticed by those who work within the company:  Babel has recently been announced as the winner of the 2020 European Agency Awards for Best Agency Culture.


Imogen Thompson Consultant