Is There Life After a Sabbatical?


As this blog was set up to focus on the experience of having a sabbatical break from the daily grind, I thought it might be interesting to write a little about the experience of going back to the day job.

It’s hard to believe but I’ve been back to work for almost nine months now. The time has flown by. For the first few months a lot of people said to me things like, “I can’t believe you’ve gone back”, “If I had a break like that I couldn’t go back to work.” and “How are you really finding it?”

I think they (and I) were a little surprised when I replied it was much easier than I thought it would be. This is not to say that the Sunday night before I went back was the most fun I’ve ever had… but I appear to have settled back in surprisingly easily.

A few things have helped. I was busy during the whole of my sabbatical – writing two novels, a book on innovation, helping to create and deliver a new university Masters module and so on. I came back to a different job as the IBM UK technical leader for Retail and Consumer Products industries. This has meant lots of new things to learn – clients, technologies, “contemporary skills” and industry insights. There’s nothing like being busy to keep you on your toes.

Tony Design Thinking 2

Lastly, I continued the interests I developed in my sabbatical, although (apart from my daily walk) if I’m honest I’d like to spend more time on these than I sometimes can. Editing work on my second novel has taken the biggest hit. It’s been a slow process but watch this space for some exciting announcements. The first novel, “Remember, Remember the 6th of November” should be out in paperback in September, in parallel with the e-book launch of the sequel “1617“.  And of course my “Collaborative Innovation” book was published by Business Expert Press earlier this year.

One thing I have ensured I make time for is my RA Eng Visiting Professorship with the University of Leeds. My most major task here has been the development of a new final year undergraduate module and I’m really proud of this. Innovation Thinking and Practice will begin in September and combines Computing, Business School and other students in teams to develop an innovation prototype and business case. Along the way the students will learn about innovation, design thinking, collaboration, communication skills and commercial awareness.


My favourite thing at work at the moment focuses on students too. This is an innovation project I’ve created focused on the supply chain challenges of a retailer which we’ve dubbed “Making the Invisible Visible”. The project is staffed by an amazing team of interns (don’t worry they do get paid). Myself, other mentors and a brilliant client team may help give them structure but they don’t need much else. Working with student interns is always a great experience and this team is one of the best.

Of course work-life balance is important. I’m fortunate to have a great and very supportive family and really good friends, some of whom I accompanied on a walking holiday in the Italian Dolomites recently. I had a great time and even if I decided that some (ok most) of the via ferrata was not for me it really is a magical area of the world.


Although I enjoy my job (most of the time), if I’m honest I work to live rather than live to work. In terms of surviving the return to work from my sabbatical the key for me has been twofold. Firstly I’ve been lucky enough to have an interesting job. Secondly I’ve made a determined effort to focus the rest of my time on the other things I enjoy, including those I had more time for during my break.

If you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity of a sabbatical I’d recommend you take it. At the end, you may even go back to work…!


2 thoughts on “Is There Life After a Sabbatical?

  1. I have great admiration to the breadth of your work … innovative thinking, teaching, accomplished novelist. Glad to hear that “Remember” is making it to paperback. I am on a forced sabbatical now that I hope will end next week.


    1. Craig – I know you’ll contribute greatly and be successful in whatever you turn your mind to. Our interactions down the years have been one of the highlights of my time at IBM.


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