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Kuva: Jutta Johansson

Published January 20, 2016

Hello again! This is how I spent my time on a year’s sabbatical

Does taking a break from work have its benefits?
Writer
Author's profile page: Vesa-Matti Lahti
Senior Lead, Foresight and Strategy, Sitra
Vesa-Matti Lahti works in Sitra’s strategy, foresight and insight team. His special interests are writing, the sharing economy, basic income and the social dimensions of climate change.

Does taking a break from work have its benefits? Vesa-Matti Lahti, who went on job alternation leave a year ago and recently returned to work, tells us how he spent his sabbatical. A little over a year ago, I posted a blog titled Sabbaticals and job alternation leave – why? I wrote in defence of sabbaticals and job alternation leave, referring to coping at work, managing unemployment and ecological sustainability, among other factors. I also promised to post another blog after returning to work, to tell you how successful my time away was. Well, this is my first day back at work at the new office. I am feeling a bit lost at the moment, but I’m sure that I’ll soon get the hang of things. My year of job alternation leave went by really fast. Although I enjoyed the freedom, it also felt good to return to work. In those twelve months I accomplished, among other things, the three tasks I announced to my friends before beginning the sabbatical: I took a vacation, did some renovation and worked on a book on the 1920s Kuzbas Colony. Vacationing was easy, but meeting my original renovation and book-writing goals did not go quite as planned. The renovation project would have benefited from more perseverance on my part. I was able to keep my energy levels up for a few days, but more often than not I tended to lose motivation midway. I did finish some jobs though. I am most proud of the small section of kitchen wall that I tiled myself. Particularly since I had never tiled before in my life. However, I wasted a lot of material at the outset by attempting to cut the tiles with inferior tools. Writing a book turned out to be addictive. Whenever I had any free time, I felt a strong pull to sit at my computer and write. Despite this, I didn’t finish the book as I’d hoped to do at the beginning of the sabbatical. However, I did manage to complete the first draft of the manuscript. All the information needed is there, but a lot of work is still needed to improve the book’s readability and, hopefully, make it appealing to readers. Now is a good time to take a break from writing. I feel drained after spending three hard weeks in St. Petersburg at a writer’s residency for Finnish non-fiction writers. If anyone is interested in the 1920s, migration to North America, Soviet Russia, Siberia and/or improving the world, I can give you the draft manuscript to read and comment on – in confidence, of course. Improvement suggestions from outside would be most valuable as I continue writing this year, mainly during weekends and holidays. The downside of a year’s sabbatical is that the compensation paid is a lot less than a full-time salary. Because I was unable to reduce my spending sufficiently, the result for the year is slightly on the negative side. Mentally, however, the result is clearly positive. I am therefore sad to see that there are plans to tighten up on the conditions for taking an alternation leave. But my opinion has not changed; the benefits – for example there is always an unemployed person hired for substitution when someone goes on job alternation leave – of a year off work are much greater than the overall costs incurred to central government finances. Weekly notes is a series of blogs offering insights into the topical issues being discussed each week by Sitra’s research and strategy team. Our Weekly notes are gathered together here.

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