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In July and August of this year, I had the incredible experience of taking seven weeks off of work — fully paid. I benefited from our generous sabbatical policy (more on that below) to take a break from work.
It had been a particularly busy year, and I had two new teammates join in February and then a third in April who all reported to me— so the timing was tight here to get everyone onboarded and operational before I went on sabbatical. I was pretty nervous about taking such an extended period off of work after just having brought on three new teammates. But, in the end, my being away ended up empowering my teammates to level up their ownership and highlighting processes I didn’t need to be involved in.
Taking time away from work can be daunting, but in my experience, it can also be immensely worthwhile. It provided an opportunity for growth for both my team and me.
Here’s more about sabbaticals at Buffer, how I set things up while I was out, and why it ended up working out so well.
Since 2019, Buffer has offered sabbaticals to all teammates who have been on the team for five or more years. Teammates are invited to take a fully paid sabbatical and spend it however they’d like — working on a side project, traveling, helping a non-profit, spending time with family, achieving a life goal, or something else entirely.
We offer six weeks of sabbatical for every five years at Buffer, plus every additional year without taking a sabbatical adds another week (maxing out at 12 weeks).
February marked six years at Buffer for me, so I was eligible for a seven-week sabbatical. I’m one of 22 people who have taken sabbaticals from their time at Buffer since the practice was first put into place in 2019.
I run the communications and content team, comprised of two content writers (you’ve seen Tami and Umber on the blog) and one social media manager (you’ve seen Mitra everywhere but might remember Instagram and TikTok videos in particular). Then we work with several agencies as well.
Everyone’s sabbatical planning was slightly different, but for me, I focused on my three teammates first. Here’s how they were supported:
1:1s with another manager
I do weekly 1:1s with each person, and in my absence, they did bi-weekly 1:1s with another marketing manager to continue getting that support.
Connecting with my manager
In some companies, “skip level 1:1s” are popular as a way for teammates to connect with their manager’s manager. My manager is our CEO, Joel, and while I was away, he did a group call with the team to check in and see how they were doing. This isn’t quite a skip level but a similar idea.
Our original process for blog content was that everything was being run by me for editing. We had peer reviews instituted instead for all blog posts in my absence. Social posts are not all reviewed, but there are several options for peer reviews on social posts around the company when needed.
New mastermind pairings were kicked off around this time, and each teammate was paired with a mastermind partner. These are fun pairings meant to connect two teammates who don’t often work together to chat about challenges and lend a different perspective. They evolve a lot as the relationship deepens. Here’s more on how we run masterminds at Buffer.
Passing off points of contact
In each of my agency relationships, there was usually one other person who was already familiar with how we collaborated. So that person stepped up to become the primary point of contact, or else I assigned several people to be points of contact so our partners at the agency would have options.
Documentation for everyone
Last but not least, we have a really great internal handbook and marketing wiki on our team. Over the past year, I’ve been building systems so that we regularly document processes and best practices in Notion and sometimes include a Loom video.
Before leaving on sabbatical, I regularly asked teammates questions like:
Then I recorded videos or wrote up documentation for anything that came up.
I had already written down all the other documentation around using specific tools, but I checked that over multiple times to ensure it included everything I thought relevant.
After many months of setting everything up for success, I felt complete confidence in my team. So I set my out-of-office reply and logged out of all of my communications tools for seven weeks to be completely disconnected from work.
I was expecting things to go well because I felt everyone had prepared, and I knew there was a solid support system in place, but I was surprised at just how well things went without me there. (Maybe I should go on sabbatical every year? 😆)
I saw a lot of positive benefits.
My team grew a ton during this period
There’s nothing like removing the quick gut check with someone to level up your decision-making skills. I heard across the board that making decisions without my input helped build confidence. I believe this was especially beneficial because, as a new teammate, the practice of running things by me was initially built into the onboarding. Once the habit is created, it can be challenging to break. This led to each person taking on more ownership over their area and projects.
We questioned our processes
When I returned, one of the questions I asked in our first 1:1 with each person was what processes we might want to reconsider. In the end, things I had been owning that I passed to others temporarily ended up sometimes staying with that person because the new process made more sense. For example, in one case, it was a new primary contact for an agency we collaborate with, and another instance was that peer reviews ended up being both fun and helpful, so we kept those.
We also realized there hadn’t been a lot of collaboration built into the content calendar before I left. I had been planning everything while my teammates were still onboarding. Now that everyone was onboarded, we started an editorial review where the content calendar planning is much more collaborative.
It surfaced unclear areas
Being away also surfaced areas that were unclear and that weren’t documented. They all ended up being tiny things (like choosing the right cover image for blog posts), but still, it meant there was room for improvement in communication and documentation around those things.
Ultimately, decisions were made without me leading to teammates being more empowered within their roles and areas, and our team processes were improved and felt much more robust. I couldn’t be happier with all of this!
I wondered, “could things have gone better?” and I think there’s always room for improvement. But the biggest thing was ensuring my team had enough connections across the company. They are connected to each other and others on our Marketing team, but for new teammates at a remote company, it can be challenging to feel connected. Without a manager there to help make connections, that can be even more difficult. So if I could change one thing, it would be ensuring that there were even more points of connection between my teammates and other leaders at Buffer.
Have you taken time off work as a new manager? How did it go? Or do you have any questions about our sabbatical policy at Buffer? Send us a tweet; we’d love to continue the conversation!
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Photo 164725791 © Andreistanescu | Dreamstime.com
Over the last five years, professional networking site LinkedIn has been running an experiment on 20 million users to analyze the success rate of job-hunting.
The results showed that one is more likely to secure new jobs via ‘weaker ties’ than through people close to them.
The study, published in the Science journal, was conducted by Harvard Business and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). LinkedIn’s own set of researchers also joined the schools. The project aimed to better attune job recommendations and mobility across the platform.
To gain data for the study, several “large-scale randomized experiments” were carried out on the platform’s “People You May Know” tab. This tab links users up with people they might potentially know.
Using A/B testing, the experiment provided people with different contact recommendations, and then it examined the work offers produced from these 2 billion new connections. Out of those links came 70 million applications, leading to 600,000 new jobs.
The experiment was based on the “strength of weak ties” theory. According to Mark Garvenotter, a professor at Stanford, the people we know can be classified into two groups. Relatively “weak contacts” share about 10 connections, and “stronger” ties have 20 or more relationships in common, New York Times detailed.
A year into the study, the researchers found that people with weak connections were likelier to land work in companies with those acquaintances than those in their “strong tie” network.
Though it should be noted that the results did vary between industries, more digital-based industries thrived better in their weak ties network, while sectors that relied less on software systems found jobs more through their strong ties.
Professor Aral from MIT, one of the authors, said its primary purpose was to prove how vital social networking platforms can be and highlight significant economic issues.
While the findings surfaced useful prospects, the lack of transparency in the research process has raised some eyebrows.
For some, what was the most revealing discovery was that the tests were conducted behind users’ backs.
Weak ties or strong ones, some things are best kept private.
[via USA Today and The New York Times, Photo 164725791 © Andreistanescu | Dreamstime.com]
For sisters Anna and Kelly, life was anything but ordinary growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska. On chilly school mornings, as they’d make their way towards the bus stop, it wasn’t uncommon for moose to be idling nearby. Careful not to alert the striking creatures, the girls would nimbly make their way around the animals while somehow still boarding the bus on time.
An encounter like that might be frightening to some, but Anna and Kelly were raised to always respect and appreciate the wildlife they were surrounded by. Living in Alaska, away from relatives, they learned to rely on both their neighbors and the nature around them as their community and family. Now, as adults, they look back at their childhood and appreciate how unique their experience was.
“For a couple of years, we lived in what we call ‘in the village,” Kelly said. “There were a lot of bears where we lived. And every spring, you could walk down to the river and see the blue whales coming up. That time was quite magical for a kid because it's just unlike anything else.”
Their parents always stressed the importance of being present in the moment – something quite easy to do when living near the vastness of the Alaskan wilderness – and intentional in the way they communicate with others. Presence and intentionality were values the girls were raised with and have stayed with them. And while it would take many years before they would eventually open up their own art business, these very principles are what inspired Arctic Haven Studio.
“When we started the business, our biggest goal was to share the art we're creating, but to do so in a way that connects people and back to nature,” Anna said. “Whether it's nature that they've experienced themselves — like if they've actually seen a Musk Ox, they can buy [our] Musk Ox and think about that experience — or to connect them to something they want to experience.”
Together, Anna and Kelly have created a small business that they hope will not only bring people together but also remind them of the beauty around them. This past July, Arctic Haven Studio celebrated their one-year anniversary. In a short amount of time, they shipped their artwork to 16 states, created 17 different design sets, and spent an average of 72 hours on the pieces.
Here’s how the two set up their brand in a way that’s allowed them to pursue their passions while doing a lot of good along the way.
When Kelly was a business major in college, one of the things that were drilled into her was to never go into business with a family member. But she’s glad she didn’t heed the advice of her former professors, as creating Arctic Studio Haven with Anna has been a special experience. Though the two have full-time careers – Kelly works in contract management and Anna is a wildlife ecologist – their other job is running Arctic Haven Studio together.
The studio relies on both Kelly and Anna’s unique strengths. With her business insights, Kelly has been able to handle all of the logistic and administrative work, while Anna creates the artwork that is made out of tiny pieces of recycled paper – a technique she’s been exploring since high school.
For each piece, Anna starts with a simple sketch of an animal, then she begins filling in the outline with scraps of paper – often starting with the creature’s eye which is usually the most detailed part. It’s a long process, and Anna has spent anywhere from 40 to 80 hours working on a piece. Each animal offers its own unique challenge. Recently, Anna made a walrus and enjoyed playing around with paper to create its wet and slimy texture.
It was Kelly who saw just how special and marketable this very art was.
“I would never have started this business if I didn't have [Kelly’s] support and knowledge as a business major and a business person because I like creating stuff, but I don't have the patience or knowledge to actually start a business,” said Anna.
In particular, it was a specific design that Anna had made of a ptarmigan, one of Alaska’s iconic birds, that became the catalyst for their small business. It was one of the most detailed paper-cut pieces Anna had created at the time.
The duo didn’t just want to sell any kind of product, however. They knew they wanted these art pieces to help connect people to one another, which is why they initially launched note cards with Anna’s designs on them.
“We started with notecard sets being our primary product,” Anna said. “We both write a lot of letters and [note cards] lend themselves well to being able to have some art that you get to enjoy, and then can give to someone else,” Anna said.
By playing off each other's strengths, the two have launched a company that perfectly embodies everything important to them.
As Anna said, “personal connection and community is a founding value for us.”
Despite already having a very clear vision for their products, Anna and Kelly didn’t rush to open up their doors. Instead, they carefully looked into vendors, reviewed contracts, and researched everything they needed to know about starting a business. In fact, it took them 13 months from their first official design to their grand opening.
While they were in the planning stage, they had clear talks amongst themselves about how they’d run Arctic Haven Studio. First, they broke down the six core functions of the business. They then turned each of those functions into job roles and divided them up between the two. While they value each other's input, they also decided there would be a decision maker for each aspect of the business.
“The agreement was that we both had a say in all the categories, but when a decision had to be made, whoever was assigned that category got to make the final decision,” Kelly said. “And we've never clashed on that.”
This methodological approach to opening the business is something they’re both glad they took the time to do. It allowed them to lay out a foundational groundwork for Arctic Haven Studio, making them feel confident in the business’s mission – to create meaningful work that not only represents their hometown but helps cultivate community amongst their customers.
While they’re proud of the growth they’ve achieved so far, they’ve always been realistic about their business and the fact that for now at least, Arctic Haven Studio is not their full-time job, but their passion project.
This perspective has helped them from getting discouraged.
“Everybody wants to be successful right away. But you have to figure out what that success even looks like and recognize, ‘I'm probably not going to make much money in the first three years’… but knowing that’s okay because success is making one more connection and just having those reasonable and reachable goals,” Kelly said.
Taking their time to open up connects back to the sisters’ goal of always being intentional with their work. This slower pace has allowed them to check all of their boxes, ensuring they were fully ready to become small business owners.
Contributing back to the wildlife they were raised by is something Anna and Kelly knew they wanted to do with their small business, which is why they’ve decided to donate 10 percent of their proceeds to the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center annually. So far, they’ve donated over $300 dollars to the organization, and hope to give even more soon.
“The Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center ended up being a perfect fit for us because they do a lot of conservation and rescuing orphaned animals that then they rehabilitate and get back into the wild,” Anna said. “Or they use them as captive animals in an educational sense. But they have very strong animal care guidelines. And so it's something we felt really good about.”
Along with giving back directly to the wildlife, the sisters have embedded sustainability into their business as well. They use recycled paper and recycled materials for their packaging as much as possible – despite the fact that it is quite pricey for them as a small business to do so. They are well aware of the fact that they could be bringing in more money if they used cheaper supplies, but doing so would feel wrong.
“How can we sell art that reflects nature, but [our customers] are going to rip open the plastic and throw it in the trash?” Kelly said.
But as much as they’re hoping their business can make a positive impact on the world, the sisters have also found that Arctic Haven Studio has brought back so much value into their own lives. While running a small business is not always easy, it has given them a chance to unwind from their everyday lives. For Anna especially, it’s been a creative outlet. The wildlife ecologist just recently graduated from grad school and says the business helped balance things out for her.
“I honestly think [Arctic Haven Studio] is kind of what kept me sane in grad school. Having the creative outlet, creating the art and then also having the business side of things to work on with Kelly, where it was completely separate from my grad school work,” Anna said.
Even more, however, this side project has given the two a reason to spend more time together, strengthening their bond. The most fulfilling part for Kelly has been seeing everyone appreciate Anna’s art – something she’s been doing since childhood.
“I really enjoy seeing people enjoy Anna’s work because I grew up with it,” Kelly said. “There's satisfaction in that and seeing Anna being proud of what she's made.”
Just recently, Anna and Kelly celebrated a big moment for their small business: their first in-person exhibit at Wild Scoops, an ice cream shop in Midtown, Alaska. This was the first time they had printed out Arctic Haven studio pieces on such a large scale and displayed them in a public setting for so many to see.
Another step they’ve taken is reaching out to local businesses to start selling their notecards, stickers, and prints in physical stores, moving away from their online-only model. They’re also extending their product line and considering including prints in poster sizes. While they are still selling their original note cards, they’re looking into diversifying their items a bit to reach more customers.
The two plan to continue growing Arctic Studio Haven together with the goal of adding more beauty, nature, and meaning into their customers’ lives.
“We all know that feeling that you get when you’re looking at art and you just want to be where that is,” Kelly said. “And so we hope our customers will take away that [our products] are more than just a piece of paper to write on, but an intentional piece with an intentional connection.”
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When you want to make an impression on people, you no doubt do things to enhance your personality. You wear the clothes that suit you best or if you’re a business, show off the best of your packaging and messaging.
Most social media bios – including Instagram – function as your digital personality. It’s an extension of what people expect in real life, whether the impression they get is accurate or not. And it’s where people instinctively go when trying to understand you (or your brand). Your Instagram bio is the information section of your account, and it's the first impression visitors to your profile page have of you.
Every part of your Instagram bio is an opportunity to not only introduce (and re-introduce) yourself but also communicate your value to your audience. In this article, we’ll share some ideas for making the most of your Instagram bio and examples of some of our favorites.
An Instagram bio is the section at the very top of every Instagram profile that displays:
Your bio is the first point of contact and should reflect your brand and personality as much as possible. A good bio encourages action from the visitor (‘Shop Now’, ‘Subscribe’, ‘Contact Us’) or gets them invested enough to engage with the content you offer.
When thinking through which of these features to include in your bio, consider the following:
There are different ways to approach your Instagram bio. Here’s a breakdown of how you can set yours up using examples from existing accounts.
Many people choose to keep their bios as simple as possible. Some just outright state what they are like So It Goes magazine with no other information.
And some accounts like Kinfolk just have their link-in-bio and business category up and leave the rest of their information blank. (P.S. This is only likely to work if your target audience doesn’t require much information from Instagram as a channel of communication).
Some bios just go straight to the point with the information new followers might be looking for. It can even save them a Google search if the way they would typically find out the information in your bio is by clicking through several pages.
Getaway House details all the places you can find its rental cabins, saving you a fruitless click to their website.
Newspaper Club states several offerings for its audience – print your own newspaper, get it delivered anywhere in the world, and get free samples.
Ting’s Chips tells you right away where you can find its products.
You can choose the route of the Quirky™ Instagram bio by using alternative imagery. This tactic depends on your brand personality – not many people expect “cute and fun” from their logistics company.
Chubby Home uses emojis that match its cute and friendly brand personality.
Visceral Home uses alternative fonts to grab attention. But keep in mind that fonts outside what you normally get on Instagram may not be very accessible as screen readers may be unable to pick them up.
If you want to get people to do something immediately, your Instagram bio is just the place to tell them.
The Cosmic Latte asks visitors to sign up for their newsletter.
Byredo says to “shop online and in-stores.”
Make the sale right off the bat by offering deals to visitors – after all, they’re potential customers.
Wild One offers several deals to visitors, from a discount on shopping a specific product to free shipping on orders over a certain amount.
Free Mvmt Shop offers unlimited access in your first week of use for $25.
Some potential customers need a little more convincing than others, so calm their worries with the reasons they should trust your brand.
Kola Goodies does this by mentioning publications they’ve been featured in like Forbes and Bon Appetit. For anyone wondering if they should try a new food brand, this can make them more confident.
Chamberlain Coffee uses this strategy by highlighting its connection to popular founder Emma Chamberlain.
If you’re looking for more ways to optimize your Instagram bio, here are some of our top recommendations:
You and your business will evolve – and your social media bios should evolve in tandem. Instagram bios don’t need to be static – you can edit them to your heart’s content, so take advantage of the freedom to highlight any new projects or releases or start a new campaign.
Beyond optimizing your account, you might also be focused on growth, whether of your followers or overall metrics. Take the chance to start scheduling your Instagram posts through Buffer and build the organic momentum that will take your Instagram page from “meh” to “must-follow.”
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