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Top 5 Things to Do on Gardening Leave

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Gardening leave can be an opportunity to prioritize activities and projects you haven't had the time for while working.

Gardening leave can be an opportunity to prioritize activities and projects you haven't had the time for while working.

It's Time to Change Jobs

Recently, after eight great years at my employer, I was approached and offered a new job. It was a tough decision as I enjoyed what I was doing and had some great friends there but the time was right and I accepted. The one problem was that the job was with one of our competitors and, in keeping with my contract, the decision was made to place me on Gardening Leave to see out the remainder of my notice period.

I now have three months between jobs over the summer with no work to worry about (it's a tough job but someone has to do it!) so what am I going to do? This article is a quick overview of the things I plan to do to fill my time.

What Is Gardening Leave?

I'm acutely aware that in some parts of the world, the word "garden" isn't really used, and as a term, "gardening leave" is relatively new, first coming into common usage in the '80s; many people of a certain generation (for example grandparents) aren't quite sure what it means either. So what does it mean when I say I am on "gardening leave"?

As a result of my role, I was privy to information around longer-term strategy and day-to-day trading, information my employer would rather a competitor (my new employer) knows less about. Therefore, they have made a calculated decision to pay me to sit at home rather than risk me having knowledge they would rather keep "in-house." It all sounds a bit dark and sinister but to be honest, in my industry, it's actually quite common as people flip between different companies.

The other question is, why is it called gardening leave? Gardening is what I guess my friends across the pond would class as yard work, and the logic goes that if you are at home, unable to work, the only thing left for you to do is to tend to your garden. It's not a prerequisite though, which is good as I am not very horticulturally minded! I have done a bit of searching, and it seems that if such a thing does occur in other parts of the world, it is most likely it would come under the umbrella term of "administrative leave."

Gardening leave: An employee's suspension from work on full pay for the duration of a notice period, typically to prevent them from having any further influence on the organization or from accessing confidential information.

1. Spend More Time With My Family

I have two young preschool children. However, having a full-time job that (including commuting) could see me out of the house for 11 hours each day, time with them is precious and usually limited to a quick period before they go to bed or at weekends. This is when invariably we're trying to fit a million and one other things in as well. Therefore, the main thing that I will be spending my three months doing is spending quality time with my wife and kids. Having three months off at any time would be good but over the summer, whilst they are yet to start school, and my wife is still off, is quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I intend to take with both hands.

Be it days out to the park or the zoo, or just snuggling up to watch a movie when the British weather almost certainly turns, I intend to make the most of it!

Gardening leave is a great opportunity to spend more quality time with family.

Gardening leave is a great opportunity to spend more quality time with family.

2. Get Some DIY Jobs Done (Maybe Even Some Gardening!)

As soon as it became apparent that I was going to have these three months off, a list was quickly formed of jobs that needed doing in and around our house that were longer than my arms (and I have very long arms!!). We moved into our current property when my son was just a couple of months old, and what with work, family and friends, time is always a precious commodity that DIY can appear to be a drain on.

However, with time in abundance then, this seems the best time to tackle some of those jobs I have been putting off for months/years. In the most likely case, this means that we have a tidier, less cluttered house to live in. However, I think my wife already has eyes on moving house to a village she loves was always out of bounds with my old job as it would have made my commute longer, but with this new job, it would be shorter!

As a quick initial update, it's day one of official of gardening leave and I actually did some gardening! Digging up the roots of an old bush; let's see how many days in total are actually doing what it says in the description.

3. Get Fit

As a kid growing up, I was always very fit. Be it running, swimming or, when I got to university, rowing; I was never far from doing some form of physical exercise. Then I got a job, and suddenly the vast majority of my day found itself sitting in front of a PC at a desk. Long days and the impact of commuting started to take a toll, and exercise went from daily, to part weekly, to weekly, to barely ever!

I've had various flourishes where I have hit a streak, but again, time is a precious commodity, and often fitness has been the victim. It doesn't help that, whilst I love exercising and being fit, perversely, I am actually a very lazy individual and need to get into a routine.

Pre-kids, I always joked that if I ever got placed on gardening leave, I would start my new job looking like an Adonis as I would have nothing else to do with my time than to sit in the gym working out. That's maybe not quite the case this time round, but I have already renewed my local gym membership and plan on getting running/cycling/swimming (sounds like a triathlon there!) more so that my baseline fitness is back to a good level by the time I'm back in an office and I have the bug to keep it up!

4. Update My Website


When I first came across Squidoo (where I wrote before Hubpages), it was because I had seen a couple of inbound links to my website Travel Gluten Free which contains user-submitted reviews of places where you can eat gluten-free around the world as my wife has Coeliac disease.

However, as is a common theme throughout this hub, time has become an increasingly difficult thing to come by and as a result, Travel Gluten Free has been a little neglected. I keep making plans to spend some time doing a site re-design, improving and updating the Android App, or simply ensuring that it is fully up to date with all of the recommendations sent through.

But then when I have the time, I just want to chill or do something easier so soon find myself putting off again and again. Now, with three months and a desire to keep up some modicum of a working ethic so it's not too big a culture shock when I return to an office, getting TGF updated is a key priority!

Relaxing is important for mental and physical well-being, and gardening leave is a good opportunity to squeeze some in.

Relaxing is important for mental and physical well-being, and gardening leave is a good opportunity to squeeze some in.

5. Relax

Life in the 21st century is non-stop, and this is true for most of us. With most of my goals for the next three months, it is quite apparent that one of the underlying issues I, and many others, face is a lack of time in the day. I could fill it all with tasks such as DIY projects, getting fit etc., but there is also one key thing that I need to make sure I do whilst on gardening leave—and that's to relax.

If you have got this far, then I thank you—but I'm also aware that I may have invoked a tinge of jealousy as I am sure many people like me would love this opportunity to unwind. As such, my fifth goal is to spend a bit of me-time. To maybe sit down with a nice book, write some hubs, or watch a film I have never seen. Even if it entails me sitting in the sun doing nothing other than reading hubs, I need to make the most of this opportunity!

Just Be Aware

Being placed on gardening leave sounds like one of the best things ever and that is the reaction I have had so far from most of my friends/family and I would be lying if I said it wasn't an amazing opportunity and one I relish. However, like all things, there are the occasional downsides and this part of the hub is to focus on those areas that I come across so that if, in the future, you find yourself placed on gardening leave, you can be aware.

Leaving Is a Wretch

As I said at the very start of this hub, I had had 8 great years at my employer and had made many friends. The decision to leave was therefore a very hard one. However, unlike when you are moving jobs and have the entire notice period to get used to the idea and to say your goodbyes, being placed on gardening leave bears many similar hallmarks to being sacked.

Having handed in my notice, I was told I was being placed on gardening leave and asked to leave within a matter of hours. Goodbyes had to be condensed (although I do plan on having a proper goodbye later) but suddenly in the space of no time at all, I had gone from doing my job, to being at home and it was a shock to the system.

If you dislike your job then it is probably a bit easier—but if placed on gardening leave, be aware that those first couple of days I did feel a bit down as it was such a shock to the system, something that can be misread by friends/family as a lack of enjoyment at the prospect of spending more time with them.

Post-Gardening-Leave Update

I am writing this final section of the hub on my final night of gardening leave. Tomorrow I officially leave my employer and start my new job next week. So after 13 weeks of being at home, have I met any of my goals and what have I learnt? Read on to find out if my aims were idealistic or not!

1. Spend More Time With My Family - By far this has been the absolute best thing about my Gardening Leave. Both kids have developed so much and I have loved being with them. For example, my daughter barely rolled when I started but is now crawling and close to walking and my son's speech has come on leaps and bounds. I wouldn't have completely missed this had I been at work but being at home has made the experience much stronger. We have been able to take days out to the zoo, Thomas World, friends houses etc. often at the drop of a hat and I have loved it.

It has also given me a greater understanding of how life as a stay at home parent is. I have lost count of the number of times that plans have had to change as one kid or the other won't sleep and it has been an eye opener that life will not be easy for my wife when I return. (We have also had an unusually good summer for weather so enjoyed plenty of time outside!)

2. Get Some DIY Jobs Done - As mentioned above we quickly drew up a massive list of DIY jobs to do. In some ways it has been disappointing as the list is still quite long but then I look at what we have accomplished and there is a lot. Our living room has been transformed as have both kids rooms. To be honest we were probably a little over-ambitious but at the same time I am a little disappointed that some jobs weren't done. However, often the reason for not succeeding was dealing with the kids so I can't be too unhappy.

3. Get Fit - Within the first couple of days I had renewed my gym membership and got my bike serviced and had visions of exercising daily. To be honest in the first couple of weeks this was true. But then it all started to go downhill. Granted I have shaved off over 5mins off my 5km run time but a combination of a sinus infection that I only got antibiotics for after several weeks and looking after the kids meant I haven't been quite as often. However, the bug is back and hopefully I won't see my weight go up too much (especially as I've had to invest in some new suits for the role!)

4. Update My Website - It is funny re-reading this hub as I wrote that updating Travel Gluten Free was a key priority. I can honestly say that this was something I "failed" to achieve! I did upload some new reviews but my visions of spending a couple of hours a day in my study working on the site went out the window when I realised that even on those rare occasions that both kids were asleep at the same time or out with my wife, I would have other jobs to do around the house or go to the gym. It's a shame but I am confident I will get on top one day!

5. Relax - I have definitely been able to relax and recharge before the craziness of daily work starts again. Sometimes we have probably relaxed too much as there was always the feeling of "we can do that later!" but I would never complain. It is also funny to look at how much things have changed. This article was originally listed at Squidoo. Then the Hubpages acquisition occurred and now I am writing here and also at Bubblews, both things I now seem to have been doing for ages.

Overall I have loved being on gardening leave. There are some small things I might have changed, but given the chances of having such a chance again before I retire are low, I can't have any regrets. I am looking forward now to the next chapter of my life but will always be so grateful to have had this time with my family.

Have you ever spent time on Gardening leave or do you wish you could? What would you get up to if you had this opportunity? I'd love to hear some ideas!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Have You Spent Time On Gardening Leave?

Mike Hey (author) from UK on October 21, 2015:

Thanks! When I was first doing this hub I found the best match in USA being Administrative leave. Oddly yesterday was my one year anniversary in my new role so the period of gardening leave seems a distant memory!

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on October 21, 2015:

Hi Mike, They say you learn something new every day and I did today. I guess there are a lot of phrases in the UK that we don't have here in the USA. I never hear of "gardening leave". This sounds like a good idea to me. I'm assuming it was successful for you. Thanks for sharing your experience with gardening leave.

Blessings to you.

Vishal Meetoo from Mauritius on October 01, 2015:

Gardening leaves is generally after one retires. before, it becomes more like a hobby

Mike Hey (author) from UK on July 20, 2015:

Thanks UK expat. I think if I were to do it all again I'd make more of a concerted effort to get the fitness levels even higher as I can count on one hand the number of runs I have done since I started back at work. That said I am enjoying my new job although it took as long as I was off to get in the swing again!

UK Expat in Prague on July 20, 2015:

So the feeling of being asked every minute if i had finished my handover so that I could start my gardening leave did in fact make it feel like they couldn't wait to see the back of me!- considering I had built so much and it was genuinely a difficult decision to leave after 6 years, it did in fact hit true that it was a bit of a shock to the system to not have a real reason to wake up in the morning .

So i'm generally an active person, so i decided to take it up a notch- try and fit into those slim fit chino's that cost a bomb, use the bike that hasn't been ridden since last summer, hit personal bests on the weights etc. its also amazing going through the wardrobe and realising what monstrosities you once bought!

I am still on gardening leave and all the suggestions have already been ticked off the list... would i have had 3 months i would've added a few more things to do; Organise finances, travel, learn a new hobby, etc... any one else thinking along the same lines?

Mike Hey (author) from UK on August 03, 2014:

@Colin323: I must admit that for the first few days after I left the office I did feel like I was missing something by not checking emails every five minutes! I think numbers 1-4 are helping me feel like there's is some level of 'work' though!

Colin323 on August 03, 2014:

No 5: Relax, can be the hardest of all if you have been in full-time work. There is a great temptation to just work, work & work again at home, because that's what you are used to doing in employment. But 'Gardening Leave' is a great opportunity to find that work/not-work life balance. I am retired now so on permanent gardening leave, but still feel the need to 'work', in the sense of doing voluntary work. This gives meaning to my 'leisure time', and makes me feel less guilty about just relaxing!

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on August 01, 2014:

I haven't heard of gardening leave. Interesting. Make good use of it while you can, with another newborn, what better family time can you have together.

Happy Writing.

Mike Hey (author) from UK on July 24, 2014:

@SusanDeppner: I'll definitely try my best!

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on July 23, 2014:

I think it should be called "honey-do" leave. :) Whatever you do, enjoy it!

Mike Hey (author) from UK on July 23, 2014:

@esmonaco: Thanks. I'm just so pleased we're having good weather for once so can get a bit of a tan without paying for a holiday!

Mike Hey (author) from UK on July 23, 2014:

@Merrci: Thanks! I doubt I'll have it mastered but if I can tell the difference between a weed and a plant it will be a start!

Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on July 22, 2014:

I was laid off from one job several years ago and it took me 4 months before I started a new one. I guess I know what you mean because that's exactly where I spent my time, Gardening. Enjoy your time with your family and Thanks :)

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on July 22, 2014:

I've never had a gardening leave, but it does seem like there are a lot of pros to it! Good ideas all to fill the time. Best of luck in the new position, and hope you have gardening mastered by the end of your leave.