Anomaly awards a month-long paid leave after five years of
employment and even kicks in $5,000 in spending money. Founding
partner Jason DeLand says the shop wants its employees to be able
to travel and experience other cultures because "the more diverse
experiences they have, the better they are going to be in our line
of work." And, he says, sabbaticals encourage work-life balance.
"This industry can be very stressful," he says. "You are working
mostly on other people's deadlines, not your own. You are not going
to be any good servicing a piece of business, or coming up with
ideas, or building a brand, if you are in a constant state of
At Wieden & Kennedy, U.S. workers get six weeks of paid time
after seven consecutive years of employment, and an additional four
weeks off every subsequent five years.
Zoe Schrepel, a W&K production manager, spent her sabbatical
hosting a refugee from Iran who arrived the day that President
Trump enacted a policy blocking citizens of some predominantly
Muslim countries from entering the U.S. Azsa West, a W&K
creative director, spent her time off directing a music video in
Tokyo. Ben Grylewicz, W&K's director of film craft, caddied at
the Masters golf tournament. John Parker, a creative director, took
his family on a four-week RV trip across the country, followed by
visits to Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam and Vietnam, where they met
members of his wife's family whom she had not previously met. Matt
Hunnicutt, the agency's co-head of production, went to spring
training baseball games in Arizona and Florida.
Karl Lieberman, executive creative director at W&K's New
York office, says the program builds loyalty. "People three years
in start thinking about their sabbatical in year seven," he says.
"Typically it expands people's worldview as well. They come back
with a more interesting perspective on the business."
David Burkus, a management professor at Oral Roberts University,
says sabbaticals are a good way for companies to "stress-test"
their organizational charts. Because when one person is out,
someone else must step up to handle their duties. "Ideally, no team
should be so dependent on any one person that productivity grinds
to a halt during an extended vacation," Burkus wrote in a 2017
Harvard Business Review article that advocates for sabbaticals.
"And while it may look good on paper, the only way to know for sure
is to test it."At 360i, leaders are trying to ward off the
four-year itch. "A lot of people after four years on a job start
feeling the need for a break," says agency Chairwoman Sarah
Hofstetter. "Sometimes people feel like they need to change jobs to
do that. We are saying, 'You don't need to, actually. We will let
you take that time to recharge yourself.'"
He cited a program run by financial services company The Motley
Fool called "The Fool's Errand." Each month the company randomly
awards one employee two weeks off, with Motley Fool kicking in
$1,000 in spending money. The catch: Employees must take the
vacation the same month they win it.
"Typically an unplanned absence is a result of something
unpleasant like illness, and only then the team learns where the
single points of failure are," The Motley Fool says in a blog post
describing the program. "This way Fools can get a much-needed and
enjoyable break, while we as a company can make sure everyone is
cross-trained in the event someone on our team needs to take time
For the "Fool's Errand"—which is in addition to a more
traditional sabbatical given to employees after 10 years—the
company draws names, with every employee getting one entry for
every year served, says Jeff Haslow, the company's finance
director, who helps oversee the program. Then the company runs a
contest to pick the winner. One month, for instance, it filled
buckets with gummy candy, hiding a single gummy shark. Whoever
found the shark won the time off.
Employees have seized on the unexpected breaks, and cash, to
check items off their bucket list. One worker rode horses on a dude
ranch. "We've had other people that have taken trips they've wanted
to take," Haslow says, or guitar lessons. "And they've had the
uninterrupted time and money to do it."
~ ~ ~
An earlier version of this article said 360i's Mike Dobbs works in
the agency's New York office. He works in the Atlanta office.