As the talent war heats up, more agencies offer sabbaticals | Advertising

As a search marketing at 360i, Mike Dobbs spends a fair amount of time surfing the web. But last summer, he spent weeks riding actual ocean waves along the shoreline of Costa Rica. He rented a beach house, took his wife and two kids, and got far away from the agency’s New York office. He barely responded to emails and was never on the phone with work. “I was truly unplugged,” says Dobbs, the agency’s senior VP for content discovery, overseeing SEO and voice marketing.

His seaside respite came courtesy of 360i’s sabbatical program, which gives employees a month of paid time off after five years of service. The perk is not commonplace in corporate America. Only 15 percent of U.S. companies sabbatical programs, down from 17 percent last year, according to the Society of Human Resource Management’s annual benefits survey. And of the companies offering programs this year, just 5 percent gave paid time off.

But in the agency industrywhere leaders are jousting for with consultancies and tech giants like Facebook and Googlea significant number of shops offer sabbaticals, which are given in addition to regular vacation days. They include Wieden & Kennedy, Edelman, Anomaly, Pereira O’Dell and Droga5, which started its program last year. FCB awards sabbaticals on a case-by-case basis, but is considering starting a formal program open to everyone, according to a spokeswoman.

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