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Time Off, Vacations and Sabbaticals for Programmers

09.29.2011
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Joel Spolsky asked a question on Google+:

Programmers: would you work for 75% of your current salary if you got 3 months vacation in the summer?

There were many interesting responses. But let me highlight a few, ignoring the “no” comments.

Some programmers liked it because they thought they could work the 3 months on their own project and try to launch their own product, for example, an iPhone app. The only problem is that unfortunately many employers have contracts that specify that anything created by the programmer even during non-working hours and using their own hardware resources still belongs to the employer.  Even if this is not explicitly stated in the contract, it could be a problem if you use some ideas that are related to the work that you do during your employment.

The only way around this is to quit your job and then do coding. Even then, you may have to worry about non-compete clauses and other intellectual property violations. Another thing you could do is to spend the time learning technologies that could give you a boost in the job market, maybe do a couple of sample applications that could be used for showcase purposes. But both these beat the purpose of the question which is employment with vacation, instead of the “3 months between jobs” thing.

A few suggested that working 4 days a week is more preferable than a longer vacation. I sort-of agree with that. The most important benefit is that you can get to do errands during that day which cannot be done on weekends or which you would rather not do on weekends. A few years back, I did this for several weeks instead of taking a longer vacation and it was pleasant. But I am not sure if I would do it for the entire year because it makes the week days much more intense sometimes.

My personal preference (not actual experience) is a long voluntary sabbatical, (i.e., not forced unemployment), lasting 6 months to a year after achieving necessary personal finance goals. Such a thing would work like this:

  • One should not have to worry about money during that period, which means that you have enough money to pay for your regular expenses and for the expenses during the sabbatical, such as travel.
  • One should be able to return to employment from an employer or to self-employment. That means keeping skills up to date and hoping that a recession does not hit. So a sabbatical would still involve some kind of work, though not for someone else.
  • One  should not have to answer to any employer or any customer during that time. This is difficult for someone who is self-employed. The concept here is that a sabbatical should be free of worrying about other people’s problems.
  • A sabbatical is meant to a peaceful time for self-discovery and understanding what to do with the rest of one’s life.
This is mostly a pipe dream for now. But something to aspire towards before it becomes too late and the “sabbatical” turns into “retirement”.

 

From http://www.thoughtclusters.com/2011/09/time-off-vacations-and-sabbaticals-for-programmers/

Published at DZone with permission of Krishna Kumar, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

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Nabeel Manara replied on Fri, 2012/01/27 - 10:04am

Your idea of what a sabbatical should be may be a pipe dream for some, but not for all. Over 130 companies offer sabbaticals to employees and the list is growing.

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