Recess Labs Is Reinventing Time Away With Structured Sabbaticals

June 14, 2017

8:30 am

What if the best way to advance your career is to take some structured time off?  Welcome to the rise of the early-career gap year. The idea of taking a sabbatical to pursue personal and professional priorities on your own time is gaining steam.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a technology forecaster, consultant in Silicon Valley and author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, noticed he got more done during is three-month sabbatical at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, and lived a more balanced life.

Pang traded the constant pressure of the daily work for time spent doing strategic initiatives. His sabbatical experience made him think that we all have the relationship between working hours and productivity backward.

More people in the tech industry are following suit and talented professionals are choosing to take sabbaticals in between gigs and leveraging their job security to work on passion projects full-time.

In the book Reboot Your Life by Catherine Allen et al., they interviewed over 200 people who have taken sabbaticals lasting anywhere from one month to two years and the results showed that not one person regretted the decision to take a break.

But how can you stay productive and on-track to make the most of a sabbatical?

Recess Labs, Sabbaticals, time off, tech

Enter Recess Labs, a New York City-based pre-incubator full-time program that caters to people in the tech industry who want to explore new paths and building side projects. Unlike a startup incubator or studio, the program doesn't take equity from participants. Recess Fellows are provided a structured work day, demo days, collaboration sessions, and a strong culture that supports the curiosity and experimentation of its members to build their passion project, even if it isn't a venture-backed startup. 

“It's important to understand that doing your own thing doesn't mean you're aimlessly jumping into the ether, though ’taking a breather’ can be part of your motivation,” said Sib Mahapatra, cofounder of Recess Labs. “If you have a plan, discipline, and runway to execute on it, you can custom design an entire year to meet your goals and collect the information you need to make better long-term career decisions – and that's a really powerful thing.”

The team at Recess Labs has assembled a beta class of fellows who have sold companies, worked in venture capital, and shipped code at top startups. They're now working on everything from a SaaS product to a jewelry brand, to a novel, to art for Burning Man.

“One thing we've confirmed is how impactful community and structure can be for people in transition,” said Casey Rosengren, cofounder and founding Fellow of Recess Labs. “Even from the first week, our fellows were commenting about how much happier and more productive they were when surrounded by friends. The daily check-ins have worked surprisingly well, helping everyone stay on top of each other's projects.”

Founding Fellow Dan Shipper said the biggest benefits of the program are structure and a social group.

“It's valuable to know I have to be at the space by a certain time every day, and to be held accountable by the people I'm around,” he said. “It feels like a perfect balance of freedom and structure for someone working on a side project.”

Recess Labs is currently looking for awesome people from the tech world who are on the cutting edge of their field, want to work full-time on personal projects that fuel their passion, and have a track record of making things people want. Applications for the first batch of 10-15 people are open now.

Read about the life of a digital nomad at Tech.Co


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Jacqueline Jensen is the Community Evangelist at Piktochart. She is a former venture-backed startup founder, recognized storyteller, and relationship builder. As Community Evangelist, Jacqueline shares Piktochart innovation with various groups at conferences, and enjoys meeting users around the globe.