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Sabbatical Report: Second Shot At a Sabbatical

Pictured above: Tina Campbell with her husband, Max Campbell, in Ohiopyle, PA

ASSETS believes that well-rounded employees are better employees and that our passionate, innovative, committed team works their best when they have opportunities to refresh, revitalize, and reflect. In pursuit of that goal, ASSETS offers a 4-6 week sabbatical after five years of employment. Tina Campbell, CEO at ASSETS went on her second attempt at a sabbatical and tells us about her well-deserved break.

By Tina Campbell, CEO at ASSETS

I am so grateful that I was able to take a 5-week sabbatical from May 3 to June 7, 2021. This was my second attempt at sabbatical. The first attempt (check out Tina’s blog about her first sabbatical trip) started on March 1, 2020, and the world changed pretty quickly in that month! I jumped back into work in March 2020 after that failed attempt at sabbatical, so I was grateful to have another opportunity to take the time away.

My original sabbatical plan centered around an immersive Spanish language learning experience. I was able to attend a Spanish school in Puerto Rico for two weeks in March 2020. While this didn’t result in the fully immersive experience that I intended, I was able to keep working with the same teacher from that school once COVID hit and in-person classes were closed. So, my second sabbatical did include online Spanish classes with my original teacher from March 2020.

My main focus for the second sabbatical was to reset and refocus after what has been an incredibly hard year for many, including the small business owners that we support. I love to hike, so my sabbatical consisted of many small trips that allowed me to hike all over Pennsylvania! Hiking is one of the best ways that I have found to reset, and I knew that this was needed both for my own mental health and for the future of ASSETS as we continue to work hard to support our entrepreneurs.

I spent time close to Mercersburg, PA with some close college friends, spent some time near Jim Thorpe, PA at a lake house that a friend graciously offered for the week, and a wonderful week in Ohiopyle, PA, hiking with my husband around Southwest Pennsylvania.

Near the lake house in Jim Thorpe

Why did you choose your particular sabbatical plan and activities?

As I mentioned, this was my second attempt at sabbatical. As I transitioned into the solo CEO role in November we were in the midst of the third wave of COVID and 25% of the ASSETS team was still very new. We had grown during COVID—creating 4 new job positions in the remote environment last summer. With this growth and all of the change and stress that COVID brought, I recognized that the best thing that I could do for myself and the organization was to make sure that I was thinking clearly. And that meant that I needed some time to clear my mind which for me meant a lot of hiking in nature!

What is the biggest thing you walked away with?

I love to create lists. One of my favorite Christmas gifts came a number of years ago when my friend gave me an entire book of list ideas that I could create. I have always created lists. I write a list, then I put things on my calendar. Lists and calendars are big in my life! So, it is no surprise that I had a list of things that I wanted to do during my sabbatical. I had a list of books to read, podcasts to listen to, pastries to bake, closets to organize. I had all of these things on my calendar!

The biggest thing I learned was to throw away the lists. I discovered pretty quickly as I started my sabbatical that I needed freedom from the long to-do lists and obligations.

I soon learned that a 5-mile hike, identifying bird calls, and avoiding snakes, was much more important than the to-do list that I had waiting at home.

I am back to lists and calendars. I need them to make sure that I accomplish what is needed now that I am back at work, but I have intentionally planned a “no list” day at least once a quarter since my sabbatical. I add it to my calendar! 😊 Those one-day sabbaticals have been invaluable for me.

What’s one or two stories of either profound learning, funny mishap, or meaningful connection?

Simply reconnecting with friends after a long hiatus during COVID was more meaningful than I anticipated.

I have a close group of friends that haven’t been able to connect because of high-risk health issues but the timing of vaccinations allowed us to actually connect again during my sabbatical. It reiterated the importance of close relationships and how simply seeing people in person can have such a positive impact on our mental well-being.

During that time with these friends, I also experienced my first bear sighting! As we hiked up a hill, we turned a corner to see a bear on the trail munching on some nearby bushes. We tried to very calmly turn out of the path of the bear. It just continued to munch, but it did make me much more observant in my hiking after that!

Photo was taken about two minutes before Tina saw the bear!

What do you appreciate about ASSETS’ sabbatical policy? 

I believe that everyone who works in a non-profit needs to step away from the daily work in order to avoid burnout and care for themselves. Non-profit team members very often are so passionate about the work that they are doing that they forget to take care of themselves. I am so, so grateful that ASSETS has thought about this need to step away to ensure that our team remains healthy as we do this hard work.

How do you think the Sabbatical policy impacts staff (or particularly, you) for the better?

I came back from my sabbatical rested with excitement to jump into the work that we do again. This is obviously important for individual well-being, but this also really affects the work of the team.

If our teammates are healthy, we all thrive.

I remember when other team members have come back from their sabbatical. Experiencing their energy and hearing their learnings also helped focus me again, even though I hadn’t been away on sabbatical before. It is a great benefit for the individual coming back from a sabbatical and for the entire team. I am excited to see what new learnings other teammates bring back from their sabbaticals in the future.

Picture of F&M Wetlands at the Spalding Conservancy near Tina’s house