Taking Sabbatical Leave To Hit The Slopes

4th May 2023

Sabbatical Leave is a great employee benefit that enables employees to pursue things that they’re truly passionate about. Sophie Rahier - Senior Product Designer at Planes, did just that by taking a break to hit the slopes in Canada for three months. 

We spoke with Sophie to find out more about her experience and how she utilised this powerful benefit.    

Taking Sabbatical Leave for a snowboarding course

“Back in January, I set off to Canada for 3-months to take a snowboard instructor training course. I aimed to get my Level 1 & 2 qualifications and be able to experience Winter in the Canadian Rockies. After the past few years being a rollercoaster of life events, it was time for a reset and to finally embark on that adventure I’d been dreaming up for the last couple of years. 

Admittedly, I was nervous about asking Planes if I could fly to the other side of the world and do something completely unrelated to my day job for a few months. However, the enthusiasm and support I got from the team was wonderful, and I was able to take the time off as extended unpaid leave. It made my experience so much better, and (I promise they didn’t make me write this) it made me grateful to work somewhere which truly understands the value of life outside of work.”

Getting productivity back after taking Sabbatical Leave

“This break from work was a great opportunity to tap into my passion and explore new hobbies, skills, and adventures. The course was an 11-week programme, with 4 days of training per week. Some of those days were spent learning about teaching theory and practice or improving our riding. It was challenging and rewarding, and not one day went by when I wasn’t thankful to be on the hill. 

The course structure also meant I had 3 days to revise, practice, and enjoy my time away. I found myself much more energised and motivated to do ‘productive’ things, such as reading, listening to podcasts, and short courses, things which in London I’d always wanted to be doing but never had the energy to get started on. I wasn’t getting things done out of anxiety anymore; instead, I naturally gravitated towards them.”

Resetting the creative muscle 

“The trip was also validating my creative nature. I think of creativity much like a muscle: you can train or untrain it, and it can tire if you don’t give it time to recover. I find that using creativity as part of a day-to-day job can make it more difficult to do it outside of work.

I’m the type of person who’d rather spend my out-of-office hours away from a screen; being active and my training hours helped me reset my creative muscle nicely. I found myself drawing and writing in my spare time again, not necessarily anything good, but just enough to get that creative flow going. Doing these things for fun released a lot of pressure on doing them well and made them feel all the more beneficial for me and my creativity.”

Taking Product to the Slopes 

“Taking a step back made me realise the skills we develop as Product people are extremely versatile and transferrable. One of the highlights of this trip was working with a friend to create board games for our coursemates to study our teaching theory and lesson plans. 

Much like in Digital Products, we identified needs, built a prototype, and tested and refined our game with “users” (friends). It was extremely gratifying to see the results (we all passed our exam!), and it was a great reminder of that feeling when you witness your product solve your users’ problems.”

The balance of life and work

“Taking time off work to pursue personal goals can have a significantly positive impact. This break from my London routine provided me with an opportunity to explore passions and hobbies, reset my creative muscles, and gain confidence in my skills. 

While it may be daunting to ask for extended unpaid leave, having a supportive workplace that understands the value of life outside of work makes all the difference. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking the time to go and do something different for a while and see where it takes you.”