Seven out of ten employees say that their company doesn’t do enough to alleviate work burnout, with 21% admitting that their employer has no programs in place to prevent it. Employees want a break, but only 10% of companies offer paid sabbatical programs.
This mismatch highlights how rare it is to get a substantial amount of time away from the demands of work. A sabbatical leave provides the increasingly coveted chance to completely unplug, recharge, and pursue personal or professional growth.
Employees return renewed, centered, and brimming with fresh passion. Data shows organizations see benefits too.
- Only 10% of organizations provide the option of paid sabbaticals.
- Sabbaticals come in three types: professional growth, personal time, and combination.
- Researchers found that people who take sabbaticals experience significant positive changes in their personal and professional lives.
- One study discovered retention rates increase when companies implement sabbatical leave programs.
- Nike found that employees became had higher job satisfaction after they started their sabbatical leave policy.
What is a Sabbatical?
A sabbatical is an extended paid leave of absence from work, typically lasting anywhere from a few weeks to up to 12 months. Some employers offer it as a formal benefit to provide employees with extended time away from work to rest, recharge, and pursue personal or professional development opportunities outside of their normal job.
During a sabbatical leave, employees are not expected to work at all. It’s a chance to completely disconnect and take an extended period of time off to rest, rejuvenate, pursue personal or professional growth opportunities, and reignite creativity.
Some key things that differentiate a sabbatical leave from regular vacation time include:
- Much longer duration
- Fully paid
- Formal program with HR policy
- Personal and professional development focus
While still relatively rare compared to standard employee benefits like healthcare, sabbaticals are gaining popularity as organizations recognize their advantages.
Types of Sabbaticals
There are several types of sabbaticals that employees can take based on their individual goals when taking time off. Some sabbaticals may be geared towards personal development, allowing employees to take time to pursue educational opportunities or travel. Others may be focused on professional development, giving employees the chance to learn new skills or explore new career paths.
Some sabbaticals may be designed to help employees recharge and avoid burnout, while others may be aimed at promoting work-life balance. Ultimately, the type of sabbatical leave an employee takes will depend on their individual needs and goals, as well as the policies and opportunities available through their employer.
Professional Growth Sabbatical
Many employees choose to focus on improving their job-related skills by pursuing education, training, research, or volunteer work during their free time. This type of personal development helps them gain new knowledge, insights, and practical skills that they can apply to their current job and future career opportunities. By expanding their expertise, employees can bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to their roles, which can lead to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and career growth. Whether it’s taking a course in new technology, attending a conference on the latest trends, or volunteering for a cause that aligns with their interests, employees who invest in their professional development can enhance their value to the organization and achieve their personal goals.
Personal Time Sabbatical
Employees are encouraged to prioritize personal well-being by taking a complete break from work to indulge in activities that promote rest, relaxation, and the pursuit of their passions. This could mean traveling to new destinations, engaging in favorite hobbies, or spending quality time with loved ones. The emphasis is on fully disconnecting from work-related responsibilities and allowing oneself to recharge and rejuvenate.
By combining personal rejuvenation with professional enrichment, this hybrid approach empowers individuals to experience a renewed sense of energy and unlock new capabilities, both in their personal lives and professional endeavors. It provides the perfect balance of self-care and skill-building, enabling individuals to grow and thrive in all aspects of their lives.
An employee could learn Spanish while backpacking South America, take online design courses while on family leave, or do nonprofit work abroad. The combination sabbatical leave allows for a customized experience.
Benefits of Offering Sabbaticals
Sabbaticals are a widely recognized and appreciated form of extended leave that offers numerous benefits to both employees and their organizations. From an employee’s perspective, a well-structured sabbatical leave can provide time and space for rest, rejuvenation, and personal growth. It can help them develop new skills, broaden their horizons, and gain fresh perspectives on their work, which can ultimately lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction upon their return. In one study, researchers discovered that when people took sabbaticals, they came away having experienced positive changes, in some ways significant, in their life and job.
For organizations, sabbaticals can have a positive impact on employee retention, engagement, and morale. They can also be used as a means of attracting top talent and enhancing the organization’s reputation as an employer of choice. In short, sabbaticals can be a win-win for everyone involved.
Benefits for Employees
- Prevents burnout by taking an extended break
- Renews mental health through complete detachment from work
- Gains fresh perspectives from experiences away from the office
- Builds loyalty and engagement since sabbaticals demonstrate investment in employees
- Pursues personal and professional growth opportunities to apply on the job
- Reignites passion for their career since time away often rekindles energy
Benefits for Organizations
- Increased innovation as employees bring back fresh ideas
- Higher retention since workers are unlikely to leave after extended time off
- Happier, healthier employees who return energized and motivated
- A competitive recruiting edge in attracting top talent who value sabbaticals
- Greater productivity upon return as employees refocus with renewed purpose
Research confirms these upsides. For example, Deloitte found retention rose when employees took sabbatical leave, effectively combatting job abandonment. And Nike saw increased employee satisfaction after implementing their sabbatical program.
Perhaps one of the most interesting benefits comes from a study of nonprofit organizations that offer sabbaticals. From this survey, researchers discovered that sabbaticals provided leaders with the opportunity to create new innovative ideas while also boosting their confidence. Interestingly, the organization benefited from the temporary absence of leaders because it required team members to step up and take charge. The result led to a more effective and responsible workforce.
Companies That Offer Paid Sabbaticals
Here’s a brief list of notable companies that offer paid sabbatical leave for their employees.
- Bank of America
- Charles Schwab
- Course Hero
- General Mills
Requesting a Sabbatical
Many companies may not offer sabbaticals to their employees, but you can still request an extended leave of absence. However, getting approval for such a request may not be easy. First, you should be aware of your company’s leave policies and procedures and ensure that you are eligible for a leave of absence. Next, you should plan and prepare for your absence well in advance and provide your employer with a clear and detailed proposal outlining the purpose and duration of the leave. This will help your employer assess the impact of your absence on the company and make an informed decision.
Additionally, you should discuss your plans with your supervisor or manager and try to address any concerns they may have regarding your job responsibilities, workload, and deadlines. Finally, be prepared to negotiate and compromise if necessary to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
Tips for negotiating for sabbatical leave include:
- Review current policies to frame your request appropriately
- Make the business case by touting benefits like higher job satisfaction
- Detail how your work will be covered while you’re gone
- Be open to starting with a shorter sabbatical leave before extending it
- Emphasize you’ve earned it through your loyalty and contributions
Putting together a convincing written proposal demonstrates your commitment. With care taken to ensure minimal disruption, you may very well get the green light for a rejuvenating sabbatical leave.
Planning a Fulfilling Sabbatical
After your request has been approved, it’s important to take the time to carefully plan in order to maximize the potential benefits of the opportunity. Some best practices to consider include thoroughly researching the opportunity, identifying potential challenges and risks, creating a detailed action plan, and regularly reviewing and adjusting the plan as necessary.
By implementing the following steps, you can increase the likelihood of success and achieve your desired outcomes. You’ll also increase the chances of your organizational leadership approving more sabbaticals in the future.
- Outline personal and professional growth goals to provide focus
- Calculate any related costs and identify income sources while away
- Minimize expenses by pausing unnecessary subscriptions and memberships
- Provide colleagues a way to contact you for anything critical
- Follow industry trends and company happenings so you can easily return
- Come back prepared to implement any new skills, ideas or best practices
Sabbaticals Are Part of Self-Care
With clear goals and mindful preparation, your sabbatical leave is sure to be restorative on a personal level and professionally enriching. You’ll return with renewed energy and inspiration as you maximize your work time off. While it may be important to emphasize the organizational benefits of getting a sabbatical leave approved, the reality is that sabbaticals can be vital to taking care of yourself. After all, taking a break can make a difference, whether paid or unpaid.
Self-care is often overlooked in the middle of the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. But you don’t have to go on a month’s long sabbatical leave just to feel better. Even a simple phrase you tell yourself during difficult moments can make an enormous difference. These affirmations can become part of your daily routine. To find out more, read the following article.
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- Deloitte. (2019). Workplace burnout survey. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/burnout-survey.html
- WorldatWork. (2019, August 12). More employers are offering sabbaticals to prevent employee burnout. https://worldatwork.org/resources/publications/workspan-daily/more-employers-are-offering-sabbaticals-to-prevent-employee-burnout
- Etzion, D., & Westman, M. (2021). The transformative power of sabbaticals. AOM Insights. https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/amd.2021.0100.summary?journalCode=ami
- Westman, M., Etzion, D., & Sonnentag, S. (2023, February). Research: The transformative power of sabbaticals. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2023/02/research-the-transformative-power-of-sabbaticals
- Mangalindan, J. P. (2022, November 7). Sabbaticals can help with talent attraction and retention, say experts. Benefits Canada. https://www.benefitscanada.com/news/bencan/sabbaticals-can-help-with-talent-attraction-and-retention-say-experts/
- Nike, Inc. (2021). Prioritizing worker engagement and wellbeing. https://about.nike.com/en/impact/initiatives/prioritizing-worker-engagement-and-wellbeing
- The Nonprofit Service Network. (n.d.). Creative disruption. https://www.tsne.org/creative-disruption
- Coutu, D., & Kauffman, C. (2017, August 31). Research shows that organizations benefit when employees take sabbaticals. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/08/research-shows-that-organizations-benefit-when-employees-take-sabbaticals
- Buildremote. (2023, September). 75 companies that offer paid sabbaticals. https://buildremote.co/companies/paid-sabbatical-leave-companies/