Recharging, Reconnecting

Generous sabbaticals help Adobe employees find time for what’s most important in their lives

What would you do with a solid month—or more—of paid vacation? You might do something wild like climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or dive with sharks in Cape Town. Or, if you’re like these Adobe employees, you’ll pack your precious sabbatical time with personal meaning—and return with a new perspective on life.

Craig S.
Senior user researcher in San Francisco

How he spent his sabbatical
On a trip to Switzerland to reconnect with his ancestral homeland

Craig S. took his sabbatical planning very seriously. Should he plan his dream house? Volunteer? Learn some new skills? He had never even taken a break between jobs or college degrees, and now he had to figure out how to spend a rare five-week vacation doing anything at all? It was a little overwhelming.

So Craig spent several weeks exploring the possibilities, culminating in a Friday when he and his wife took a day off, headed to a local café with a stack of books, and talked through the possibilities. At the end of the brainstorm, he knew what he wanted: a trip to Switzerland to connect with his roots.

“My sense of identity was usually strongest on the Swiss side, so I decided it was time to take my first trip there to see firsthand what the culture was like,” Craig says. “I wanted to see some of the towns that my relatives had come from.”

The trip wouldn’t be only for him; his wife would join, along with their 8-year-old daughter.

I was hoping she would get to learn about where her family was from and to give her the benefit that I didn’t have growing up—instead of, like me, having the “who am I?” question pop up in midlife.

The family decided not to rent a car for the five weeks of their trip but to travel and mingle with the locals using the superb transportation network of Swiss trains, buses, and cable cars. To learn as much as possible about the people, the past, and the culture, they usually explored their immediate locale on foot or by bike, often spending up to a week getting to know a given area. They woke up to leisurely outdoor breakfasts, decided how to spend the day, then went out for an adventure. And in scenic, mountainous Switzerland, Craig may have discovered the reason for his love of high places.

“I’ve always been a mountain person,” Craig says. “In Switzerland, I would be looking at trail maps deciding where to go, and it was always an easy decision because I realized that the higher I climbed, the happier I was, particularly when I had the chance to hike in snow in summer temperatures.”

The best part of the trip came when the family travelled to remote carless villages up in the mountains, accessible only by cable car or foot. These old-world-charm mountain lodges sometimes even lacked electricity or indoor plumbing.

“We were by no means roughing it,” Craig says. “The Swiss are very civilized. The rooms were impeccable with fluffy, warm duvets. The bathrooms were clean and the meals were homemade.” 

The escape from modern-day technology allowed him to relive the experience that his distant relatives must have had when they were alive. Here, the family focused on what mattered the most—the breathtaking natural beauty, spending time with each other, and exchanging stories with other travelers.

When he came home, he resolved to find more balance in his life. He had bought land in the Sierra Nevada mountains and decided to make a serious attempt to spend more time there. 

But the changes also affected work. Craig says he quickly identified with the strong work ethic prized in the Swiss culture, and that inspired him to approach his job a little differently.

“People tell me that I have the strongest work ethic of anybody they’ve ever met, but when I look back over my career, my achievements weren’t always related to how many hours I’d worked,” Craig says. “I had a realization that I needed to be strategic and focus on quality—on what has the highest value to the customer—not on quantity. Thinking about that, I feel like I’m now making a greater contribution to the company and doing better work.”

Sandip B.
Quality engineering manager in Noida, India

How he spent his sabbatical
Visiting family and caring for his newborn daughter

Sandip B. was thinking he might spend his sabbatical on a grand adventure. But then he and his wife found out they were expecting a baby. And as everybody knows, babies change everything.

Instead of trekking to an exotic vacation, Sandip decided to make his sabbatical all about family. So, shortly after his daughter was born, Sandip and his wife took her on a trip to his hometown to spend a few weeks with his parents and extended family. Sandip’s parents had met the baby once before but hadn’t been able to stay for long. Other family members, like aunts and uncles, also live in his hometown, so this trip gave everyone a rare opportunity to be together.

It also gave Sandip the chance to bond with his daughter.

You can’t measure the value that Adobe has provided to an employee with a sabbatical like this. You can give an employee what seems to be an equivalent bonus or salary, but giving this time—saying ‘this is your time, your job is assured, take this time and do whatever you want with it’—is priceless.

“When she was born, she used to sleep a lot. But then we noticed each and every change as it developed, and I wanted to be there,” Sandip says. “From the moment she started looking into my eyes, smiling at me, understanding that I was talking to her—I could have missed those times and my wife would have just told me about them when I got home from work. But this way, I could be a part of it.”

Sandip saved the last week of his sabbatical to travel back home and spend a few days as a nuclear family, bonding and readjusting to daily life. And in the end, he decided that having this time with his new family was better than any other adventure he could have planned.

Jamie R.
Purchasing specialist in Lehi, Utah

How she spent her sabbatical
In Lehi helping to plan her daughter’s wedding

When Jamie R. earned a sabbatical in 2012, she didn’t take it right away. She knew what she wanted to save it for: her daughter’s wedding.

It might seem an unusual choice for a time that many people spend on rest and relaxation. After all, no matter how happy the occasion of a wedding might be, the planning of it tends to be a crush of stress.

But Jamie says that was exactly her reasoning.

I really got to enjoy it with her instead of just putting on an event, and not feeling stressed was the most rewarding part.

“It was really fun to be able to enjoy that time with my daughter as a bride—to go dress shopping and do some of the things I’d be stressed about and rushing through otherwise,” Jamie says.

For four weeks, Jamie and her daughter not only planned the wedding but also handled many parts of the event themselves, including the decorating and preparing food for at least 100 guests. They even juggled bridal showers scheduled three weekends in a row.

“Family is a big deal to me, and I was just grateful that Adobe offered that opportunity because most people can’t take four weeks off of work for a wedding,” Jamie says. “It shows me that the company values recharge time for employees. I have never worked for any company that has such a great time off policy as Adobe does.”

Shigehiro H.
Manager of digital media sales in Tokyo

How he spent his sabbatical
Meeting up with old friends in Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore

About six years ago, Shigehiro’s family started participating in an international homestay program. Each year, he welcomes into his home a visitor from another country, giving his guest a chance to experience daily life and culture in Japan. Each time one of Shigehiro’s homestay guests leaves, he says the same thing: “Next time, I’ll visit you.”

So when he earned a sabbatical at Adobe, he decided to make good on that promise.

Shigehiro set out on a multi-country trip to visit a combination of friends and former guests and to learn about the local cultures.

Exploring different places, all in different economic stages of development and with different lifestyles, gave me great insight and made me think about things I might not be thinking about day to day.

He started his trip in Myanmar, where he visited a former homestay guest and saw some of the progress made at a local school that he and his friends have helped to support since 2002. He hiked the mountains near Lake Inle and saw local agriculture in action, including the lake’s floating gardens of fruits and vegetables. Then he reunited with friends in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Singapore, getting a local’s experience of the best restaurants and of family cooking at home.

“When you experience the differences in daily life—foods, customs, and anything related to lifestyle—you start to question everything that those things mean,” Shigehiro says. “By going through those questions and conversations, you gain a greater appreciation for all different cultures.”

After a quick stop at Adobe Singapore to say hello to his colleagues, Shigehiro headed back to Tokyo refreshed.

“I am thankful for the company for giving me an opportunity to make a small dream come true.”  

Adobe Sabbaticals

5 years of service = 4 weeks of sabbatical
10 years of service = 5 weeks of sabbatical
15 years of service (and every 5 years after) = 6 weeks of sabbatical
Available to employees in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and India

Not many companies offer sabbaticals these days. Paying employees to take extended vacations seems to contradict the way many organizations expect their employees to work: faster and for longer hours.

But Adobe sees the world a little differently, understanding that well-balanced employees are happy employees—and happy employees stay at the company to do more innovative work. Here’s how sabbaticals work at Adobe: