Clif Bar, the energy bar company that generates an estimated $500 million in annual sales, has a generous perk it uses to reward employees and maintain a low turnover rate.
After every seven years of service, employees become eligible for a six to eight week paid sabbatical, which they can use to spend time with their families, travel, and accomplish longstanding personal goals — no strings attached.
A somewhat rare company benefit that’s increasing in prevalence, the paid sabbatical serves as an example of the employee-first culture Clif Bar strives for. When defining success, the energy bar company doesn’t just look at the bottom line, but prioritises the prosperity of its employees, the Clif Bar community, and the planet as a whole.
“Our company IS our people,” Clif Bar proclaims on its website. “We work to create an environment where our employees can grow and succeed as they live the lives they want to live.”
More than 100 employees have taken advantage of the sabbatical program, with a couple dozen coming up on their second or third round. They use the time off in a variety of ways, from completing a baseball stadium tour of the US to taking cooking classes to simply walking their kid to school every day.
Claudia Perkins, vice president of human resources at Clif, used hers to attend a Mosaic of Peace Conference in Israel and Palestine with her husband. “I’d never had eight weeks off in my adult life before,” she says of the experience. “Sabbatical felt like a tremendous gift of time and an opportunity to gain perspective on all of the good aspects of work and the meaning you get from people.”
Ben Huffmaster, a senior manager of sales finance, opted out of a big trip and used his weeks off to spend quality time with his family and disconnect from work.
“It’s really your time to do whatever you want, knowing you’re still employed and getting a paycheck,” he says. “You get to do what you dreamed of doing and never really had time to do. You come back feeling refreshed and focused, knowing your coworkers have covered for you.”
The perk doesn’t just benefit the employees; it provides value to the company at large. Giving workers a mental break to completely unwind and recharge prevents burnout and allows employees to return more productive than before. It also keeps employees engaged at work, helping Clif Bar excel at employee retention — the company boasts a turnover rate of less than 3%
“When you return, it helps you pick your spots,” Perkins noted. “The regular work frustrations don’t seem as great when you realise that work is just one component of your life.”
Clif isn’t the only place with this advantage. Others that have jumped on to the sabbatical bandwagon include General Mills, Boston Consulting Group, and REI.
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