Do-It-Yourself Sabbaticals | Some companies will pay you to go away to keep you employed. People without that lucky perk are ginning up their own sabbaticals: by quitting.

Do-It-Yourself Sabbaticals

Do-It-Yourself Sabbaticals

Do-It-Yourself Sabbaticals

Do-It-Yourself Sabbaticals

Do-It-Yourself Sabbaticals

Do-It-Yourself Sabbaticals
Do-It-Yourself Sabbaticals
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At Birchbox, the beauty and grooming subscription service, there is something called the “tri-bat.” Birchbox offers full-time employees who have been with the company for three years a $750 stipend (on top of their salary) and three weeks off in addition to standard vacation time. At six years of service, employees receive the same time off and $1,500.

The goal of the tri-bat (a play on “sabbatical”) is for workers to completely disconnect from Birchbox for a time, said Pooja Agarwal, the chief operating officer. And unlike vacation, portions of which often go unused even as workers feel overstressed, Birchbox employees take advantage of the program. In the last two years, among the firm’s United States work force of 120, there have been 42 tri-bats.

“A lot of employees have used it to get perspective,” Ms. Agarwal said. “People have used them for once-in-a-lifetime trips, like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. As adults, you so rarely get to travel for three weeks in a row.”

Sabbaticals are one of the many perks that companies are increasingly offering to retain employees, especially younger workers who want greater flexibility and a better work-life balance.

In February, Ralph Lauren announced a sabbatical program that gives employees of the fashion house a month off, timed to five-year service milestones. In a statement, the company said it believes extended time away from the office allows employees “to pause, refocus and come back more energized.”

Other companies with sabbatical programs include Microsoft, Patagonia and the work space firm Breather.

Still, outside of academia, sabbaticals are relatively rare. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a professional association, in 2017 only 4 percent of its members offered paid sabbatical leave.

Millennials may be leading the charge in make-your-own-sabbatical movement. In a recent survey by Deloitte, the accounting and professional firm, about 25 percent of millennials reported leaving a job in the last 24 months.

Indeed, once unthinkable to previous generations, the career timeout is no longer unheard-of, even as talk heats up of a looming recession, with people quitting their jobs to travel, pursue a side hustle, reflect on a career change or just recover from burnout. Those doing the quitting seem to work in a very specific, privileged class of jobs, like media and publishing rather than, say, manufacturing or the service industry.

Basically, these people are doing what so many of us dream of.

James Feess, 35, earned a master’s degree in advertising, and in 2016, he landed a coveted job as a copywriter at McCann, one of the top ad agencies in the world. Two years later, he put in his notice and “gave myself a year,” he said, to focus on a budget travel website he had been doing on the side, the Savvy Backpacker.

“I thought I’d regret if I didn’t try it,” Mr. Feess said. “However it turns out, this is a positive experience.”

Hayley Saltzman, 29, followed a similar path — leaving the security of full-time employment without another job lined up — but for different reasons. After almost six years at Bustle Digital Group, a web publication geared toward millennial women, where she was director of social media, Ms. Saltzman quit three months ago. She didn’t like the direction the company was headed in, she said, and was burned out after years of chasing the news cycle and posting stories at 3 a.m.

“My life was my work, it consumed me,” Ms. Saltzman said. “I wanted to look at other opportunities and get into a better head space. The hope was maybe four months without a paycheck was doable.”

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, 55, a Silicon Valley-based consultant and the author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less,” a book that grew out of his three-month sabbatical from Microsoft in 2011, said that the nature of employment in the tech industry means that “a lot of self-sabbaticals” are taking place in the Bay Area.

“There’s enough job hopping that people will end up having periods of a couple of months where they are organically in between jobs,” he said, meaning that they have a job lined up but a future start date. “They can use that time as a sabbatical.”

Stefan Sagmeister, 57, a graphic designer in New York, is perhaps the most famous proponent of the timeout, having given a TED Talk on the subject. After each seven-year period of work, Mr. Sagmeister takes a full year off, a strategy he first tried in 2000 because he felt “stuck in the everyday of doing job after job,” and repeated in 2008 and 2016.

He has lived in other countries during his breaks, read and pursued activities that inspire his design practice. After each yearlong pause, he has returned to work renewed.

“The sabbatical is the best strategy I’ve found so that my job remains a calling and doesn’t deteriorate into just a job,” Mr. Sagmeister said.

That describes the situation Carl Chisolm found himself in as a middle-school math teacher in New York, spending increasing amounts of time on administrative duties and mandatory testing rather than on his students. He decided to “to take a leap” and quit his job to work an unpaid internship at a Brooklyn photography studio, seeking a possible career change.

“I didn’t have anything lined up,” said Mr. Chisolm, 40, now a freelance photographer specializing in editorial fashion. “My unhappiness ranked over the stability of having a job.”

In generations past, once you got on a career path, you didn’t step off until retirement. And quitting a job outright — especially one with relative security and good benefits — was considered professionally and financially reckless. Mr. Soojung-Kim Pang said: “What I was taught was you stay in the job you hate until you get another job.”

But, he added, “between the faster pace of work, greater uncertainty of careers and the sense that in many fields today you either work heroically hard and get rich and successful by the time you’re 30, or sink beneath the surface and are never heard from again, it’s a perfect recipe for burnout on a mass scale.”

One cure for burnout — or other work-related discontents — seems to be travel. In the Deloitte survey, “travel and seeing the world” was the young respondents’ greatest life goal, more than earning a high salary, owning a home or having children.

Jacqueline Kittivarakul, 36, and her husband, Anton Sattler, 39, quit their corporate jobs in New York, sold their apartment and set off for a trip in June 2018. They planned to be away for more than a year.

Both had successful careers (she in public relations and he in business strategy specializing in entertainment and media), but each wanted to explore other career paths, and they were frustrated that the longest they could travel together consecutively was two weeks each year.

“We didn’t want to wait until retirement to travel because we wanted to seize the opportunity,” Ms. Kittivarakul wrote in an email from the island of Cebu in the Philippines.

Mr. Sattler wrote, “Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone,” adding that he views this period for the couple as “a transition into what comes next,” which ideally results in jobs that “give us more freedom to manage our time.”

Of course, it takes a certain amount of privilege, financial security and flexibility to stop working for even a brief period. Someone saddled with student-loan debt or other financial obligations may not be able to. A person of color may be reluctant to quit and come back to the work force, given the unconscious bias that has been found in hiring practices.

Mr. Chisolm, who is African-American, said his race was not a personal concern, so much as his fear of “trying to get into a world I knew nothing about.” His father worked his entire life for Con Edison and prized job security, which made Mr. Chisolm aware of the risk he was taking.

But, he said, his wife had a full-time job, the rent on their Brooklyn apartment was manageable, and they had no children at the time. “The expenses of life hadn’t really set in,” Mr. Chisolm said. “If someone doesn’t have that support system, the safe bet would be to save.”

With no children or student-loan debt, and with the proceeds from the sale of their apartment, Ms. Kittivarakul and Mr. Sattler were in a position to press pause as well. Mr. Sagmeister has no children or spouse, and he also waited to take his first timeout until he was 38 and well established as a graphic designer, with clients that included the Rolling Stones.

Even then, he said, he felt “oddly unprofessional” at first and worried that “I just built up a design studio and it’s going to be forgotten.”

Although Ms. Saltzman also came from “an incredibly privileged place,” including no student-loan debt, savings she had amassed over years of working and a husband she shares living expenses with, she, too, felt anxious initially.

“The first question people ask is, ‘What do you do?’ You cannot care too much what other people think.”

But all sabbaticals are temporary. Ideally, her timeout will give Ms. Saltzman some perspective about her next career move. And if it only results in bills piling up?

“Worst case,” she said, “in a few months if I have no answers, I will suck it up and get a job.”

Steven Kurutz joined The Times in 2011 and wrote for the City and Home sections before joining Style. He was previously a reporter at The Wall Street Journal and Details. @skurutz

The T List: What to Know About, See and Drink This Week

The T List: What to Know About, See and Drink This Week

Drink This

CreditCourtesy of Qi Fine Teas

Recently, one of my nightmares came true: While staying at a friend’s place upstate, I woke up early and discovered there was no coffee at his house, nor within a 30-minute drive. I had no choice but to try a less caffeinated option from his cupboard, the Golden Buddha Black Tea from Qi Fine Teas. Qi was founded in June 2018 by the Portland, Ore.-based couple James Nozel and Ivy Xu, who have traveled extensively through China in search of quality tea leaves harvested by small family farms. After ultimately sampling a variety of flavors that weekend, my favorite was the Guizhou Maojian Wild Green Tea, which is made from trees that are 90 to 100 years old and has a rich, nutty taste but smells like pine needles. Qi also sells a range of beautiful handmade ceramics made by artists in Jingdezhen, the porcelain capital of China, like bamboo serving boards and tools — and this unique strainer made from a mulberry leaf. Truth be told, I’m still drinking coffee most mornings, but I’m planning to ease into tea in the colder months — especially once my package of Honeysuckle Phoenix Mountain Oolong Tea, which was picked on the final harvest day of the winter season last year, arrives.

See This

Long after “Weeds,” the mid-aughts television show about pot and the suburbs, had fully lost its way, I kept tuning in to watch Mary-Louise Parker. (Has anyone ever sipped an iced latte with such feeling?) Now that I live in New York, I have the chance to see her onstage every few years, most recently in Adam Rapp’s masterful new play, “The Sound Inside,” which opens on Broadway this week. Parker is cast as a creative-writing professor who seems to have given up on the possibility of anything happening in her life, but then she befriends an unusual student (Will Hochman) and receives a daunting medical diagnosis. Rapp’s play, which, as the professor says at one point of the student’s novella-in-progress, keeps “a nice amount of dread simmering,” deals in good stories and the people who love them — both characters are fascinated by Dostoyevsky and think Faulkner’s “The Wild Palms” is underrated. As things progress, the line between their realities and their writing blurs in a way that’s sure to inspire close reading, though Parker’s talent is as obvious as ever.

Wear This

Quilting may be a centuries-old craft (and one well-loved at T), but it hasn’t lost its charm, or purpose, over the years. This season, a handful of designers debuted cozy, quilt-like jackets that are perfect — and colorful — layering pieces. Isabel Marant’s take is dramatically shaped, with an asymmetrical wrapped collar reminiscent of a fencing jacket, while a version by Alix Verley-Pietrafesa of Alix of Bohemia features puckered shoulders and orange piping; Emily Adams Bode’s one-of-a-kind coats are made from antique textiles, while Margaret and Katherine Kleveland of Dôen patched together their own prints for their perfect knee-length fall coat. For those in search of a more comfortable price tag, check out the geometric-patterned jackets from the London- and Jaipur, India-based SZ Blockprints (they’re reversible!), or search “printed quilt jacket” on Etsy to find a vintage option that comes with its own unique story.

Buy This

George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, who run the international architecture and design firm Yabu Pushelberg, are accustomed to creating luxurious environments for their clients (recent projects have included the Fulton, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s seafood restaurant in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, and the redesign of Barneys New York on Madison Avenue). But about a year ago, while dining alfresco at their shared home in Amagansett, N.Y., they realized that they were in need of a good folding chair. Thus began the idea for Departo, Yabu and Pushelberg’s new line of direct-to-consumer textiles, ceramics and furniture pieces, designed alongside Yuichiro Hori of the furniture brand Stellar Works. There are neutral-hued napkins, stoneware bowls and, of course, a wood-and-steel folding chair — all at a reasonable price point. As Pushelberg told me, “It was our goal to make high-level, beautiful design accessible through well-made everyday objects that enhance the motions of everyday life.”

Know About This

If I could magically beam myself anywhere this month for just an afternoon, it would be to the Guggenheim Bilbao to see the revelatory survey of the contemporary German photographer Thomas Struth’s work, including early pictures that haven’t been previously exhibited. Struth is famous for his images of museum rooms thronged with rumpled, preoccupied, rapt tourists, yet I’ve always been especially drawn to his portraits; his subjects (mostly families he knows personally, but also Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip) stare straight into the camera with unsettling equanimity. It’s always hard to explain why one loves the art one does, but for me, the power of Struth’s pictures lies in the tension between their formal elegance — the composition’s perfect framing is always pre-eminent — and the tenderness with which he approaches his surroundings, which is apparent even in his images of an empty street, a robotics lab, a surgical theater or an amusement park. Looking at them, one becomes very aware of the strangeness of the human project, and its — — fragility.

From T’s Instagram

Virgin Galactic Unveils Jumpsuit for Space Tourists

Virgin Galactic Unveils Jumpsuit for Space Tourists

Once there was the era of space-age fashion. Now the age of fashion for space has arrived.

On Wednesday, Virgin Galactic, the company started by Richard Branson to take people to the edge of space aboard a rocket-powered plane, is unveiling sleek, high-tech garments that passengers will wear during their trips.

They are not spacesuits like the ones that NASA astronauts put on for rocket launches and spacewalks. Rather, they are one-piece jumpsuits like those worn by military pilots, with a design that wouldn’t be out of place on the bridge of the starship Enterprise. They come with fancy underwear to help maintain comfort during the trip up and down.

As part of the price of the ticket — the cost of a seat is currently $250,000 — the Virgin Galactic customers will get to keep their space clothes including the jumpsuits, underwear and boots.

Virgin is not the only organization showing off new space wear. On Tuesday, NASA demonstrated two new spacesuits that will be used for its upcoming missions to the moon. While Virgin space wear conjures going boldly where no one has gone before, NASA’s gear, which must function in more rugged environments beyond Earth’s orbit, is drawn from familiar forms that have guided the space agency’s engineers for decades.

The new NASA spacesuits will offer improvements over existing models for the men and women expected to wear them, including greater comfort and movement.

The other spacesuit, with a bright red, white and blue pattern, is called the exploration extravehicular mobility unit. That is what astronauts will wear as they explore the moon’s surface.

CreditTing Shen for The New York Times

At an event on Tuesday at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Kristine Davis, who works in the agency’s spacesuit engineering efforts, showed how the new design makes it easier to walk, bend and twist.

“You remember Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, they bunnyhopped on the surface of the moon,” said Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator. “Well, now we’re actually going to be able to walk on the surface of the moon, which is very different than our suits in the past.”

The suits are designed to work in temperatures ranging from 250 degrees Fahrenheit down to -250 degrees and potentially even colder places around the lunar South Pole, where NASA is aiming to send astronauts.

The other suit, in a bright orange fabric, is to be worn by astronauts during launch and re-entry to Earth inside Orion, NASA’s crew capsule for deep-space travel. The suit provides protection and oxygen in case of an accident that causes the capsule to become depressurized.

Private companies other than Virgin have debuted their own novel takes on the spacesuit in recent years, each intended to clothe astronauts headed from Earth to the International Space Station.

SpaceX, which could start flying astronauts to the space station next year, sent a mannequin wearing its suit to orbit in March aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The suit featured a 3D-printed helmet and a black and white design that seemed inspired by motorcycle racing suits.

Boeing, whose Starliner capsule will also travel to the station, unveiled its blue, zippered suit in 2017. It is about 10 pounds lighter than what astronauts wore on the space shuttle.


For its garments, Virgin Galactic enlisted Under Armour, the maker of high-performance sportswear, to develop the out-of-the-world garb. Virgin Galactic wants its passengers not only to look good but also to feel comfortable to fully appreciate the flight, which will soar to an altitude of more than 50 miles.

“They have to be fully present,” said Randy Harward, senior vice president for advanced materials at Under Armour. “They can’t be hot and sweaty and annoyed and itchy. They’ve got to be super comfortable.”

Mr. Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, had originally expected the company to start flying years ago. But progress was slow, and in 2014, the first of its space planes disintegrated during a test flight, killing a pilot. After making design changes in the second space plane, Virgin has completed other test flights successfully, the most recent in February. Company officials now say, with increasing confidence, that commercial flights could begin next year.

When Virgin Galactic first begins taking customers to space, each trip will last about 90 minutes. It will be enough time to experience about five minutes of weightlessness.

For the past year and a half, Under Armour designers at the company’s research center in south Baltimore have been putting together prototypes in a small section of the cavernous space, cordoned off by a tall red curtain.

They first made some design decisions. They considered a two-piece flight suit but settled on a more traditional one-piece configuration. “We didn’t want to stray too far from that,” said Nick Cienski, the senior innovation director for outdoor apparel at Under Armour who led the work for Virgin Galactic.

CreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times
CreditTing Shen for The New York Times

That allowed something that looked “not too strange,” but that was still fashionable, he said.

They settled on a palette of three blues and gold, colors selected from images of Earth backlit by the sun.

The first completed suit, for Mr. Branson, was completed last week. It took 10 people five days to construct it.

“It is the most labor intensive product we’ve ever made,” Mr. Cienski said.

Under Armour’s experience with making sportswear for top athletes with fabrics that wick away perspiration but still retain body heat helped with creating designs that can deal with the temperature swings a space tourist can expect.

Each flight suit has a bounty of pockets for carrying mementos. On a gold rectangle inside the chest area of the flight suit, passengers could write a “personal mission statement” for why they want to go to space.

Padding on the shoulders of the flight suit cushion the harnesses that will hold the passengers to their seats through most of the flight. “There’s a lot of small details we thought through,” Mr. Cienski said.

Like much of the technology needed for space, the extreme requirements pushed innovation. Under Armour was able to take advantage of tools it already had in the works, such as machines that spin threads of varying widths as they weave together the fabric. After demonstrating that they work for the flight suits, it can then deploy them for other products. The material used for the slipperlike boots for the Virgin Galactic passengers, for example, will soon show up in shoes for football players.

“The learning in this helped us prove it really does work, and we can find a path to commercialization,” said Clay Dean, the chief innovation officer for Under Armour. “I think if you look at the original space program for NASA and the things it spawned in terms of developments that we never imagined, we’re finding the same.”

Kenneth Chang has been at The Times since 2000, writing about physics, geology, chemistry, and the planets. Before becoming a science writer, he was a graduate student whose research involved the control of chaos. @kchangnyt

Meghan Markle rewore her engagement dress for a special occasion

Meghan Markle rewore her engagement dress for a special occasion

While Prince William and Kate Middleton took a ride in a tuk tuk in Pakistan, last night Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attended another event in London.

The royal couple spoke at the WellChild awards, which Harry and now Meghan attend every year. The Duke of Sussex is a patron for the charity, which allows children with serious illnesses to spend time at home with their families.

During the event, where they met with children and their families, Prince Harry made an emotional speech, welling up as he mentioned that the previous year, he and his wife were the only people to know they were pregnant. He went on to explain that he could only truly understand now how heartbreaking it is for parents to have a sick child.

For this important event, the Duchess of Sussex wore a dress that no doubt has sentimental value to her, as it’s the one she wore to announce her engagement in 2017.

The green dress by Parosh features a tie belt, and she wore in with a camel coat by Santeler and suede pumps.

She finished off her look with a quirky tortoiseshell bag with silk tie handle by Montunas.


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