The best laid plans: A tale of a sabbatical mid-pandemic

We’re always looking for ways to unlock opportunity, not just for our clients but for everyone here at Incite. We believe in offering our team the chance to develop not only their professional lives, but personal lives as well.

Throughout the year, those celebrating four years with the company can take a fully paid, four-week sabbatical – with many extending it to six weeks with annual leave.

I’ve just returned from my second sabbatical during my time at Incite. There are many reasons why this is my favourite employee benefit, but first, a short story of how a sabbatical during a pandemic went down.

Seemingly, December 2021 may not seem the most logical time to take a sabbatical. We were in the midst of rising cases of Omicron, travel restrictions were being tightened globally, and plans were becoming consistently inconsistent due to COVID restrictions, self-isolation and illness. I decided to take it anyway. Why?

  • I, like most, needed a break. Two pretty relentless years had left me tired and lacking in motivation, both in and out of work.
  • I wanted time to make Christmas the best it could be following last year’s wash-out. My daughter’s birthday falls the week before, so Christmas is usually an afterthought.
  • I hadn’t seen my family since August – and before that August 2020 – due to them living in France.
  • I yearned for some sunshine. My best friend lives in Dubai and following many aborted attempts to visit in the last 10 years, it was finally time.

So far, so good. I love a plan.

It went as follows: I finished work on 15 December and promptly spent three days in bed with non-COVID flu. This led to me missing most of the aforementioned birthday, and having to hastily re-arrange a theatre trip for said birthday. I lost a few days of the Christmas organising time; instead shopping online from my sick bed. France then banned travel from the UK, so my family Christmas would become a Zoom chat.

So far, so bad. I contemplated changing the plan and taking my sabbatical in the summer.

Instead, Christmas was quiet and slow-paced. Most days were filled with cooking, eating, playing games and watching TV. I managed to see a few friends, take walks on the beach with the dog, and I did make it to Dubai (hurray!). It was everything I’d hoped for; quality time with a friend, in the sunshine, is just about the best tonic and gave me the necessary energy boost.

Everything came good in the end, and less plans meant I had more time to reflect. A few observations on why a sabbatical remains my favourite perk: 

  1. I realised that the time off doesn’t need to be a big adventure to be beneficial. Simply having downtime to recharge was all I needed.
  2. Regardless of the ‘plan’ (or lack of!) I got so much energy from that extra time spent with the people I love.
  3. When plans fell through, it provided an opportunity to change course and refocus on the small things that bring me joy.
  4. I returned with a renewed appreciation for my amazing team, who made it possible to take time out and not return to an overwhelming to-do list.
  5. A little sunshine and 25ºC beats a cold UK January any day!