Is gardening leave a bed of roses?

It sounds great being paid to spend your notice period at home rather than work after you get a new job. But is gardening leave all it's cracked up to be? Business Editor David Parkin asked those who have experienced it.

Tim Waring became a partner in charge of launching the new Harrogate office of property specialists Knight Frank earlier this year, after quitting his partnership at estate agents Carter Jonas, where he had spent nine years.

Initial reaction when you were first advised of garden leave?

I was a little shocked, even though I could understand why the decision had been made. I'd planned to take my wife to Paris

for a few days and the immediate

handover of my mobile phone ensured we enjoyed some wonderful peace and quiet in France.

Did you set any goals and were these achieved?

My wife asked me what I wanted to do with my gardening leave and I decided on three goals: first, to travel around the world,

which I achieved; second, to refurbish

my daughter's doll's house, including installing electric lighting, which I just managed to do – although I'm not saying when; and thirdly, to build a treehouse

for my 10-year-old son, which was accomplished in time for him to use it

this summer.

How many times did you actually get into the garden?

Three. The first was clearing leaves; the second was clearing snow; and the third was pulling up a few weeds. I admit I'm not very green-fingered.

How did your family react to the idea?

I had already discussed the possibility of changing jobs and when they learned I wouldn't be going to work for six months, they were quite enthusiastic about the idea.

Towards the end of the period, my son said he'd really enjoyed having his dad at home much more and hoped things wouldn't change too much when I went back to work. What were the low points?

There was a time when I was sitting in a timber shack on the Thai/Laos border with a family whose English was as poor as my Thai, with sanitary arrangements that it would be flattering to describe as basic, and I wondered what the hell I was doing there. But this was the only low point – and it passed quickly.

What were the high points?

Few people have the opportunity to take six months off work, halfway through their professional life, and manage six holidays in as many months; travel around the world; and go skiing twice. It was a fabulous experience and I am eternally grateful to my former partners for giving me six months off.

What are your thoughts afterwards and what would you do differently if ever on gardening leave again?

If I was giving advice to anyone about to take gardening leave, I'd say seek advice from someone who has already done it. I did find that for the first one or two months

I was a bit shell-shocked. I'd been used to working at 90mph and suddenly I stopped. I had a lot of lazy mornings and met people for coffee and lunch.

Looking back, I think I could have done more during that early period, but then again, perhaps I needed the time to readjust and take stock.

Russell Jowett is on gardening leave after leaving Yorkshire Bank to join the Bank of Ireland in Leeds where he starts next month.

Initial reaction when you were first advised of garden leave?

I was made to do three months gardening leave. My initial reaction was "why three months?" Previous people resigning from my organisation had only been asked to have one month's gardening leave. This feeling of being "got at" was soon tempered by the fact that I realised I would have the whole of the summer off work. Gardening leave is all about timing. I also realised it was really a compliment as my ex-colleagues wanted to keep me out of the market as long as possible.

Did you set any goals and were these achieved?

Yes, I did. Initially, my goal was to spend some valuable quality time with my large family. This was easily achieved as my wife informed me I was looking after them for the whole of the school summer holidays. She works full time, so it was an ideal opportunity to save money on sports camps and so on which the children normally have to go to in summer. The reality, of course, was I spent a lot more money.

We had a great time though, going to Spain, and also having some time away in England, watching golf and going to Alton Towers, among a variety of other things.

I also wanted to do some "jobs" around the house. You know those things that have been in need of doing for ages and yet you never quite get round to it. All I can say on that one is I still have four weeks left to do them – eeek time is running out!

Funnily enough, I have so far managed to achieve the goal of playing more golf (even though many of my friends would find it hard to believe that was possible) and improving my game. Also, playing with people I haven't seen for a while. A round of golf is a great way of catching up with people, and I am pleased to say I am well on target for achieving, or even exceeding, my own expectations in this area.

Finally, I wanted to spend some time preparing for my new role. I am very excited indeed about this new opportunity that has been presented to me and I have been working through my contacts and targetting the meetings I want to set up so I can "hit the ground running" when I start.

How many times did you actually get into the garden?

It needs renaming if I am anything to go by. We have a gardener, so gardening was out. I spent quite a lot of time in "beer" gardens and on golf courses in a vain attempt to make up for my lack of prowess with a trowel.

I think I cooked a couple of barbeques, but apart from that, the garden was the last place for me.

How did your family react to the idea?

I think they thought it was fab. Well, that is what they told me. Maybe they were thinking "Oh my God – that means we have him under our feet all summer". Seriously, though, my wife was fully supportive of my change of jobs and welcomed the fact that she could give me a whole list of jobs to do.

What were the low points?

Three months is a long time. The first six weeks were great because of the school holidays, although I have to say in the final week I was glad they were going back to school.

No matter how hard you try, children get bored, then they start picking fights with each other. Unfortunately, I have had a very close family bereavement as well, which may have been easier to cope with had I been at work to help me take my mind off it.

What were the high points?

Just the luxury of having time on your hands which you would not normally have and that maybe retirement won't be so bad after all – just think how my golf would improve then.

It's also the ability to contact and see people that you have been meaning to see for ages; the problem is they are all working. Managed to drag a few of them kicking and screaming onto the golf course though.

What are your thoughts afterwards and what would you do differently if ever on garden leave again?

A tough one to answer as my gardening leave is not over yet.

Can I take a rain check on that

one?

Sean Lippell took gardening leave after resigning his partnership at law firm Pinsent Curtis (later to become Pinsent Masons) to join Garretts, the legal arm of former global accountant Arthur Andersen. Sean is now a Leeds-based partner at Addleshaw Goddard solicitors.

Initial reaction when you were first advised of garden leave?

Shock and surprise sum it up. I had anticipated a negotiated period out of circulation, but that was not to be.

Did you set any goals and were these achieved?

If the situation is unexpected, you can't plan ahead. However, once I had come to terms with things, I decided to do some travelling. I went to East Africa, where I climbed two mountains, Kilimanjaro and Meru, and later visited north-east Nepal, where the environment was also mountainous, but very different. There was also a short trip to Chicago, which, in turn, was far removed from the other visits.

How many times did you actually get into the garden?

Unless you count taking a drink out into the garden, I'd have to score this as a zero.

How did your family react to the idea?

The unexpected nature of the situation meant the first few weeks were fairly hectic and emotional, and after that I was out of the country for two months, but my wife was very supportive throughout.

From the other partner's point of view, gardening leave upsets their routine and in that sense is very disruptive.

What were the high points?

The physical high points were being at the top of mountains in East Africa and Nepal, but the travel aspect as whole was a terrific

experience.

What are your thoughts afterwards and what would you do differently if ever on garden leave again?

I'm sure I wouldn't have done anything very different. It gave me the opportunity to step back and think things through. It certainly refreshed me so I went into my new job with a fresh outlook and my batteries fully charged.

Although much depends on the circumstances, I think career breaks aren't necessarily a bad thing.

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