At Blue Shield of California, we believe in providing our people with resources to achieve a healthy work-life balance. One of the many employee benefits we offer is the option to take a four-week paid sabbatical after every 5 years during their career at Blue Shield. We asked some of our people how they recently spent their month-long sabbatical after their fifth anniversaries, and here’s how they went:
Michelle Pisani, director of Benefits
The sabbatical benefit was first rolled out at Blue Shield of California by Michelle Pisani, director of Benefits. Michelle has been with Blue Shield for seven years and recently had the opportunity to take her sabbatical at the start of the year. She says that as a working professional, mom, and wife, she doesn’t always take time for herself, so she was able to reconnect with herself during her time off.
“I spent one third of it traveling, then two thirds of it at home. I kicked it off with a yoga retreat, which helped center me after the holidays and a busy year.” Michelle continues that she then, “took a vacation up to Washington to see family and go skiing.”
When Michelle returned from her travels, she spent the rest of her time at home, living a more spontaneous day-to-day life. “Some mornings, I would read my book, drink my coffee and just relax, and then other days, I was focused on training for my first triathlon.”
Training for her first triathlon has meant learning new and different things for Michelle, mostly in the swimming category. “I am not a swimmer at all, so I experienced lots of new things. Some as small as buying swim gear, but more so taking swim lessons to work on my form. It’s a new hobby for me that I plan to keep up.”
On other days, Michelle would keep her toddler home with her, and they would go on hikes and out to lunch, enjoying spending time together.
The yoga retreat was a highlight for Michelle, as she reflects, “It was restorative in so many ways. I went in with bad neck pain and worked out the kinks while I was there.” She continues that it was both an emotionally and physically healing experience.
When asked what advice she would give to those deciding how to spend their sabbatical, Michelle says, “I would say don’t over-plan it. I thought I would do a big trip, but I loved having time to rest. I really benefited from connecting with myself and I would encourage other people to do that as well.”
Pradip Khemani, vice president of Global Business Services and Healthcare Business Operations
Our vice president of Global Business Services and Healthcare Business Operations, Pradip Khemani, also recently took his sabbatical after being at Blue Shield for 14 years.
Pradip spent three weeks of his sabbatical traveling with his family to visit his parents and sibling in India, and his wife’s family in Dubai. He then spent another week and a half at home readjusting from jetlag, relaxing, and getting ready to come back to work. This included spending some time thinking about how he’d like to plan the rest of his career at Blue Shield, life in the Bay Area, and being more intentional about spending greater time with family.
After not seeing his parents in person since 2019, Pradip says, “The focus of being in India was purely to be with the family, my parents, my sister, and her family. It was just quality bonding time for the grandkids and for the three generations to be together, and Dubai was again spending time with family on my wife’s side. Since it was our first visit to a new country and city, we also did a lot of tourist activities. Dubai is a very kid-friendly and fun city to visit.”
Engaging with family in person outside the United States is important to Pradip, as he couldn’t do so during the pandemic. He also had a chance to sit down and reflect with his wife on their memories from living in India, where they were born, studied, and started working before coming to the U.S. in the early 2000s. “It was a great opportunity for the kids to experience the culture, which they were only conversant with from either reading books or through video, but this time they could physically experience it. There’s no substitute for family interaction in person versus doing it over video.”
Pradip says that his son hadn’t been to India since he was seven years old and his daughter since when she was two years old, so he was thrilled to see them enjoy the environment there, the different infrastructure, culture, and the great food. Pradip also notes, “We intentionally went during this time because the weather and the holiday environment was fantastic in India and Dubai. It was also during the time when many of our colleagues were on holidays and vacations, so I knew that when I came back to work, I wouldn’t be coming back to a lot of activity in my email inbox.”
Pradip continues to say that one of the things that allowed him to truly relax and not worry about work was his trust in his leadership team to deliver on any business objectives and outcomes without any need for them to call or email him while he was on his sabbatical. They are developed to operate as a high performing team and empowered to make decisions. He had zero distractions from work during his sabbatical.
Pradip advises those going on sabbatical to, “truly disconnect and don’t think about work. Have trust in your team members. If you are an individual contributor, manager, or leader with your team, trust that they will be able to function without you. Even if some things may not work out as expected, it is okay. Teams will learn and be able to survive or sustain to get to an outcome in your absence. Use your time to maximize your well-being, not just for yourself, but your family, and ensure that you spend time on your sabbatical doing what you aspire to achieve most. It could be travel, it could be doing projects or improvements at home, or traveling to explore or visit family. Taking a sabbatical allows you to really achieve something that is missing in your life.”
Mari Corbin, principal program manager of Medical Care Solutions
Mari Corbin, principal program manager of Medical Care Solutions, took her sabbatical last fall. “I decided to do a combination of going out of the country somewhere I had not been to before and resting. During my travels, I chose to spend some time relaxing, volunteering, and considering ‘What do I want to do next?’ In terms of life and work, it was the first time in over three years that I had the opportunity to take a real vacation,” – something that Mari says she really needed.
Mari decided to look for a reputable nonprofit organization that offered part-time volunteer opportunities she felt comfortable pursuing while she traveled abroad alone. She found an organization called Maximo Nivel that operates in a variety of places, including Peru and Costa Rica. Mari had already been to Costa Rica, so she decided to volunteer in Peru through their office in Cusco. The volunteer opportunities available to her included teaching kids English for an after-school program, working at an animal sanctuary, and working at a construction site.
She chose the construction site because she has some light construction experience, didn’t want travel outside Cusco to the animal sanctuary, and wanted to be outdoors. Mari arrived each morning to work alongside a master builder to build a new kitchen at a non-profit trade and crafts school. “I got to work on installing tile and doing the grout. During my week volunteering, I helped with tiling and grouting the kitchen counter and sink, as well as the kitchen floor. It was light construction work, but very fulfilling to know this would enable the school to prepare and serve meals to the students for years to come.” Mari volunteered in the mornings, and finished around noon to spend the rest of the day as she chose.
Mari says that a highlight of her trip was, “just being immersed in a different culture; that was really amazing.” She also visited Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, located near Cusco. She reflects, “not being scheduled all day, every
day, nor in back-to-back meetings was wonderful... It was healing in every way to be able to walk, sit, and be fully present in your surroundings in nature. Seeing locals and people from all over the world enjoy their day and interacting was very cathartic. I came back very renewed and refreshed from that experience. I think my biggest takeaway is that it’s so important to get away from work, forget about everyday stressors and responsibilities, and really experience life. Just live. I did that and it renewed my intention and goal of not just living to work, but working so I can live, and making it a priority to really enjoy the fruits of my labor.”
When asked what advice she would give to someone deciding where to go for their sabbatical, Mari says, “Don’t be afraid to travel and experience other cultures, whether it’s other cultures here in the U.S. or other countries.”
Where would you go and what would you do during four weeks of paid time off? If you’d like to work for a team that recognizes the importance of work-life balance and offers a paid sabbatical, we’d love to speak with you. Check out our open career opportunities and apply.