top of page

How a mid-sized NYC PR agency uses sabbaticals to drive their success

One of the most common misconceptions I come across is that only large companies can provide sabbatical leave for their employees. N6A, a PR Agency based in New York City, is a perfect example of how valuable a sabbatical program can be for small to medium-sized companies as well.

I recently had a chat with Nina Velasquez, who is the EVP of Talent Development at N6A, to learn more about how their sabbatical program flourished.

Why N6A chose a sabbatical program

N6A was founded in 2009 and have since grown to 40 employees. Matt Rizetta, the CEO, was aware of the increasing impact of burnout facing professionals in the PR industry. He was attracted to the concept of sabbaticals and wanted to give it a try. When weighing the pros and cons of sabbaticals versus unlimited vacation, Nina and the team realised an important consideration, "The challenge with unlimited paid time off is that, more often than not, you really can’t take a vacation any time you want. If that were the case, you would book trips every month." Nina went on to explain that there is a sense of guilt when taking time off due to the extra workload that you know you are leaving your team with, which often causes you to actually take less time off because it’s your responsibility to make the right decisions for you and your team.

"The challenge with unlimited paid time off is that, more often than not, you really can’t take a vacation any time you want."

They realised providing well-supported sabbaticals would be a better way to ensure they had happy, healthy employees to fuel N6A’s growth.

How they implemented the program

Employees are rewarded with paid month-long sabbaticals, in addition to vacation, each year if they hit their performance goals.

Nina commented on the reactions that surfaced when they first considered incorporating sabbatical leave into their company framework, saying, "Our managers and directors were actually on the fence about it when we brought it up because they realised they would be down a person for a whole month, and 'How are we going to pull that off?'". She went on to say that being a smaller agency was in fact, one of the pros of the situation since it was easier to roll out the changes with only 20 people involved at the time of launch. The biggest challenge they faced was initially starting the program, "When we first rolled it out, it was a bit of trial and error in terms of being seamless with the handovers.”

Every team individually plans in advance to ensure duties are covered effectively while they are a member down. Each group had to adjust depending on what the role of the person on sabbatical leave. The directors would put together a staffing plan for each month and assign projects accordingly, taking everybody's workload into account, the agency priorities and the upcoming sabbaticals. The key is being open to adjusting objectives and making sure sabbaticals are planned a couple of months in advance.

When they initially began the program, managers assumed everyone would need to work an extra 1-2 hours a day to get the work done but, the opposite happened! Nina went on to explain, "That wasn't the case at all, it was a matter of reorganizing the priorities for the month, and it taught us that everybody should work like this even if you don’t have a sabbatical program!