After 5 years of service, Influence Health employees are offered the opportunity for a sabbatical. The primary purpose of the Sabbatical Program is to allow employees time to recharge, rejuvenate, and return to work re-energized. Sabbaticals are planned, strategic job-pauses during which an employee should take time to engage in activities they may not otherwise have the time to do such as travel, volunteer, do research, learn a new skill, or fulfill a lifelong dream before returning to work.

Jenny Billano, Executive Assistant, shares about her sabbatical.

1. What do you do at Influence Health and what is your title?
I manage projects, schedules, and travel for the Executive team as well as facility management for our Birmingham office. My title is Executive Assistant, but I enjoy wearing many hats at Influence Health.


2. Where did you go and why did you choose to go there?
For me this sabbatical was all about family time… completely checking out and focusing on slowing down. The first week was a mix of staycation activities, starting with a spa weekend with my mother and sister and then several day trips with my kiddos. The next two weeks were spent on a National Park hiking adventure. We stared in Denver and ended up driving to the Canadian border at the edge of Glacier National Park (over 2,500 miles on the road).

We spent all our time in the parks and explored as many trails as we could in Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier. It was a pretty majestic trip for us all, and I was constantly impressed at how resilient my kids were. No cell service and rarely passing another person on the trail was a humbling experience…. especially in grizzly country.

The final week of my sabbatical I took the kids to relax at my parents’ home on Smith Lake. I grew up spending summers on the lake with my grandparents, and it was great for my kids to get a similar experience outside of the hectic weekend trip. No schedule, no agenda, and no other boats on the water made for a great ending to my time off.


3. How long did it take to plan the trip?
I’ve been dreaming of a big National Park trip since I was a kid, but we really didn’t do much advance detailed planning. We booked flights a few months out, and a few days prior we purchased sample hiking itineraries from a National Park Ranger. Our day could vary based on weather, current trail conditions, or bear activity, so we were flexible and took advice from the local rangers. The itineraries were perfect for tips on avoiding the crowds, where to park, and knowing what trails have more wildlife.


4. What did your manager say when you asked for the time off?
Have fun, you deserve it.


5. Share a favorite memory or two from your trip.
This may be impossible to pick! Miles on trails filled with silly stories and songs to pass the time was pretty great. I also loved seeing my boys get their Jr. Ranger badges at each park.


6. How did you feel on your first day back in the office?
The time off went by much faster than I expected, but I felt at ease coming back. It took a few days to get up to speed, but it was not as painful as expected and everyone was very welcoming.

7. What would you tell someone worried about being gone/letting go of their projects for that long?
Trust your coworkers… they have your back! Work will always be there, but the gift to have this time to relax, explore, and spend time with those you love is rare.

8. Would you do it again? If so, what would you do differently?
In a heartbeat! We have already booked another Park adventure to recharge… we are spending a week camping on Cumberland Island National Seashore in March.

9. Anything else you’d like to share about your sabbatical?
I’m thankful to work for a company that prioritizes work life balance through benefits like the sabbatical program and freedom leave. I may have to lobby for us to open a summer office in Montana!!

10. When did you take your trip?
I actually picked the dates for my Sabbatical before we even decided for sure where to go. I took off during June, so my oldest was out for summer and I could keep the kids out of daycare and home with me. This also allowed us to visit the parks outside of peak season which worked out really well.

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