Page 9 - PIC Magazine Spring Issue 15
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   Preparation is key to help you and your colleagues. I started planning for the break six months before (though preparation for the break itself took a year as I had to organise visas, tours, medication, treks and so on).
I had to give a lot of notice to my team at Mayo Wynne Baxter and involved other partners at the firm, who were supervising those colleagues tasked with dealing with day-to-day work. Again, it helps to have a few colleagues able to take on your work, particularly if you are dealing with litigation (I specialise in long-running professional negligence claims), as cases run on for months if not years.
I readily accept that sabbaticals might not be feasible in smaller organisations. I had the benefit of three partners who were able to supervise a few colleagues and, in that way, share the burden - in turn I reciprocated when they had their sabbaticals. And for those colleagues tasked with taking on my work, is it glib to suggest that people filling in can prove their worth in ways that are otherwise impossible? They had the support of my fellow partners, yet I know that they were able to use their initiative to tackle problems, come up with solutions to the myriad of issues thrown up by clients, and deal with work priorities. If, before my sabbatical, they have been involved with
my caseload for months, if not longer, then hopefully this period will enable colleagues to expand their skill set, step in, and find new ways to deal with work.
Six weeks may seem a huge amount of time - however it is not as ‘threatening’, both for you and your colleagues, as a break for three months or even six months and in my view a much more feasible option for many firms.
And the benefits for you? I agree that on my return, I had to deal with thousands of emails and the first few days were sheer torture. My eyes wandered to the window and the world I had left behind. It took time to get ‘work sharp’ yet I did have a fresher perspective. And to those doom merchants who shout “well, you would say that”, there is research and some evidence from those returning from sabbatical about its benefits. One example
is Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce,
a software company, who has been named the decade’s top innovator, one of the world’s greatest leaders and one of the best- performing chief executives (and his book, Trailblazer, is a good read on sabbatical).
He travelled on his sabbatical to India (and
he cites a Hindu guru as his mentor) where he came up with the idea for Salesforce, a global leader in IT software, and the rest is history. This may be an extreme example, and I do not (yet) have ambitious ideas for a world beating IT tech company or something similar, nor do I plan to travel with an inspirational guru; nevertheless, the point is that a sabbatical encourages a fresh perspective.
In short there is abundant evidence that people who
may have worked at a cracking pace all their lives,
return much refreshed and happier from a sabbatical.
Especially if the sabbatical is for a short period of time. Your organisation is a step ahead for organising a culture where there
is a balance between work and personal life. Again, dare I say, it allows you to ‘stress test’ your team and the business gains greater staff retention. If well managed, it can create goodwill and a reward for your commitment to
your firm.
Karim is Head of the Professional Negligence Group at Mayo Wynne Baxter and advises on all aspects of claims against professionals (solicitors, surveyors, architects, accountants etc) and also on commercial litigation, contentious probate and dispute resolution.
Karim is nationally recognised as a specialist in negligence claims involving professionals by leading independent guides to the profession and is also an Accredited Mediator.
 So, in my view, what makes a successful sabbatical for an organisation? I suggest:
Creating a culture within the organisation that encourages people to feel able to take a sabbatical.
Work with your partners and colleagues months in advance to prepare them for the big day – not a last minute ‘holiday’ note which is really asking for trouble.
Work with your colleagues to manage your emails whilst away – nothing is designed to cause more trauma than coming back to an inbox with thousands of unallocated emails.
Involve not only work colleagues and fellow partners but your clients as well. You will have built a good rapport with key clients and for them it can be a matter of concern if you are not likely to be on hand for a good two months. Prior to my last sabbatical, I met with clients and the partner who would take over responsibility for managing their cases to ensure
a smooth transition. This also now works when I take much shorter holidays and those colleagues who helped when I was on sabbatical, can tackle issues with clients whilst I am away at other times.
             Karim Mohamed, Partner at Mayo Wynne Baxter. Spring 2020

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