At Blue Shield of California, our people understand the value of work-life balance. One way we support this is by offering a sabbatical benefit. After every five years of service, employees have the option to take a four-week paid sabbatical. Once a sabbatical has been earned, there is a two-year window during which it may be used. To give some insight into the joy and work-life balance experienced in choosing to take advantage of this benefit, we sat down with three people who recently took their sabbaticals to hear how they went. 

Meaghan Kennedy, program manager, Portfolio Management

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After eight years at Blue Shield, Meaghan took her sabbatical in the fall of 2023. "My husband and I took our nine-month-old twins to The Big Island of Hawaii for 12 days, took two days to rest, then traveled to Veracruz, Mexico, where my husband is from, for another 12 days. I wanted to take my sabbatical before the twins reached their ‘terrible twos.’ We had a lot of beach time playing in the sand, trying to not eat sand, and enjoying the shade. We also did a short hike to see a volcano and a lava tunnel which was a cute, memorable experience.”

“In Mexico, we were visiting my husband’s family, so seeing them meet the twins for the first time was great. This was the longest I was able to visit with them. It was so great to spend time with family, both my immediate and extended family — taking time to breathe, enjoy the present moment, and kind of move at a slower pace while still on baby time. Towards the end of my sabbatical, I wanted to wind down from traveling before I came back to work so I took a couple days at home to recover.”

“I took the twins and our three dogs to the park by my house and put out a blanket. The weather was beautiful. We just sat under this huge tree and spent several hours enjoying our time there.”

Meaghan advises others who are contemplating what to do during their sabbaticals to “make a plan that you know will make you happy and connected to the world outside of work and be intentional about it. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and not end up doing anything if you are not intentional about what you want to do.”

Kelly Seymour, senior manager, Digital Employee Experience

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Kelly has worked at Blue Shield for 12 years and decided to take her sabbatical during the fall of 2023. “My husband and I took a two-week vacation to Portugal, a place we both wanted to visit but had never been. We visited Lisbon, Porto, and spent a lot of time in the wine country. One nice thing about Portugal is they drive on the same side of the road as we do in the U.S., so it wasn’t as confusing driving around through the cities and the countryside.”

Upon returning from their trip “we came home for two days, and then left again on a long road trip in my daughter’s car with her dog to deliver them both to her in New York. We drove from California to New York by way of Canada. We took about two weeks to drive, as I wanted to see remote parts of the country that I was born in. Once we arrived in New York, we celebrated my granddaughter’s first birthday.”

“It was so nice to see the East Coast during fall. We did a lot of ‘leaf peeping’ at the bright red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. We also made some pretty great stops along the way. I saw a TV special about a place called Dog Mountain in Vermont where there is a massive shrine for the dogs people have lost. We visited and brought photos of 3 of our dogs who had passed away and put them up on the chapel walls. There were thousands upon thousands of photos all over the walls. They had open areas for dogs to run and a lot of art. It was a beautiful destination.”

When speaking of and advice for those deciding what to do for sabbatical Kelly says, “When you leave, you need to trust your team and do your best not to check in. I would also suggest doing something you have never done before. I did learn, however, that I need a ‘vacation after my vacation’ to rest. I would have liked four or five more days at home before returning to work.”

Cathy Krampert, senior manager, Total Rewards

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Cathy has been with Blue Shield for six years. She decided to take her sabbatical during April of this year. “My husband and I spent nine days alone together in Washington D.C. for our 30-year wedding anniversary. I then spent a week in Tahoe with some friends, and some time at home resting and going to routine doctors’ appointments that I am usually too busy to do during the work week.”

Some highlights from Cathy’s trip included “seeing the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, museums, and the changing of the guards.” She also saw the original ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz on display, and spent a day with her son’s girlfriend, Jamie, in Philadelphia where they went to the stairs from the movie “Rocky,” the Liberty Bell, and the Reading Terminal indoor farmer’s market.

“I love soft serve ice cream, but it is hard to find where I live. In Washington D.C., however, there were soft serve ice cream food trucks everywhere! I had ice cream every day.”

When speaking of takeaways from her time off Cathy says, “I came back to work feeling refreshed and relaxed and did not want to lose that mindset. Often, we put more pressure on ourselves that is not needed. By prioritizing myself and my health I can bring my best self to work and my family."

If you believe in the value of work-life balance and would like to be part of a team that recognizes the importance of staying balanced, happy and healthy, we’d love to speak with you. Take a moment to explore our open career opportunities and apply for your next role!