Becky Deane figured she already had a pretty sweet deal. The accounting associate at APQC, Houston, Texas, US, receives six weeks of paid time off each year for combined vacation and sick leave. Plus 10 paid holidays.
Then she found out her time-off package was getting even sweeter. Deane, who has been with the non-profit firm that provides benchmarking research and best-practice management consulting for 22 years, learnt this summer that she is eligible for an extra six-week sabbatical she can use any way she wants. “When they made the announcement, I started crying,” recalled Deane, who will spend her sabbatical in Lubbock, Texas, helping her daughter get ready for a new baby. She will help get the nursery ready, spend quality time with her three-year-old grandson and help with the newborn until she heads off to visit more family in Amarillo, Texas.
The new programme—which offers extra time off for employees with at least five years of service—is part of an employee engagement initiative APQC launched earlier this year, says human resources director Ashley White. The non-profit firm wanted to make sure it had programmes in place to ensure employees’ longevity, so it asked them what they’d like.
That, in turn, led to the thinking, “Let’s be crazy and do a sabbatical.”
Many large companies provide extra vacations for long-time employees, but that’s easier when there are enough employees to pick up the slack. APQC doesn’t have that advantage because 80-85% of the employees perform one specific role and don’t have overlapping work responsibilities.
To make it work, APQC hit upon the idea of having the one who’s leaving train co-workers to take over. Deane said she has been training the human resource coordinator on accounting procedures while her boss, the CFO, will pick up some of the tasks. White, in turn, will cover some of the human resource jobs that the coordinator is currently responsible for.
“It will work out perfectly,” says Deane, who has compiled a list of responsibilities so everyone knows who is doing what. To make the programme more interesting, APQC created an abbreviated version for those with significant but fewer years of service.
Employees with five years will receive one extra week of time off while those with 10 years will receive two weeks.
White is eligible for a one-week sabbatical this year and she hopes to use it for either an overdue family getaway or spending a relaxing week at the family farm.
© 2012/The New York Times
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