When I first joined Automattic over 5 years ago, I embraced my new professional home with open arms and an open mind. Our CEO, Matt Mullenweg, is a pioneer of the distributed workforce (some even call him the grandfather of a distributed workforce, despite being only 37 years of age). The pandemic has forced many companies and industries to modify the working environment, forcing millions of people to work from home, something Automattic has done since its inception many years ago. There have not been many, if any, companies as prepared to deal with a pandemic more than Automattic. Under Matt, our 1700+ employees have the support, tools, processes, and motivations to work anywhere and anytime we feel we are most productive.
But working from home, or an RV or a coffee shop has its challenges too. Automattic recognizes this and is constantly working to improve employees’ lives. One such way is a paid “sabbatical” of up to 12 weeks off every 5 years. When I first started 5 years was so far out that I couldn’t even imagine being off for 3 months straight, given I have not had more than a few weeks off in a row since my first paper route at age 12.
Well, it’s amazing how time flies. I recently came off of my sabbatical, and it was undoubtedly one of the most important things I’ve done personally and professionally. Pre-pandemic, my wife and I talked about traveling during the sabbatical, possibly taking our kids to beautiful Costa Rica. However, those plans were pandemically squashed so I made a list of things I wanted to do and accomplish during my time off. This included tackling various projects around the house, reading more, learning a new skill, and of course spending time with my family. Within a few days of my sabbatical, I realized that I will never have this time again to spend with my wife and kids, so I focused my energy on them and spent my spare time picking at my other sabbatical goals.
My sabbatical was book-ended by two small trips: fishing to Northern British Columbia with a good buddy and a family trip to Newfoundland to see friends and family. But in between was the gem – all about my wife and kids. We spent time on the lake paddle-boarding, playing tennis, golf, hiking, beach days, and taking in as many activities as we could. It was incredible to be able to focus on something without having the ongoing work commitments in the back of my mind.
I also decided to take a break from technology. There were many days where I didn’t even look at my phone! I am not on social media, and I am not anchored by a feeling of missing out on anything that doesn’t directly affect me. I guess I’m lucky that way…so taking a break from technology wasn’t that difficult, but it certainly gave me more clarity on what’s really important.
I came back to Automattic recharged. Not in a Red Bull kind of way, but more like (and here comes my science background) photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to create oxygen and energy.