Discover how you can benefit personally and professionally from a sabbatical leave.
With millions of Americans quitting their jobs and a persistent retention problem in many companies and industries, many employers are focused on finding new ways to keep employees around. As a result, companies are beginning to offer new compensation packages, benefits, and work flexibility, all in an attempt to improve employee retention. For some companies, those benefits can even include things like sabbatical leave.
In this post, we will explore the idea of sabbatical leave and examine how it can help your career. We will also look at the ways in which a sabbatical leave might be the perfect option if you are on the verge of burnout but not quite ready to consider a career change.
What is a Sabbatical Leave?
Historically, sabbatical leaves have been something more commonly used by university educators. Professors and other educators would typically take one or two semesters away from teaching to conduct research, further their own education, or teach at foreign universities. Many would use the time away from their primary jobs to write as well.
In a business setting, that concept typically involves a paid or unpaid break from work. During that break, the employee maintains employment with their employer, but is freed from the duties of the job and can thus pursue other activities. The typical sabbatical can last for one or two months, depending on the policies of the company providing the benefit. To qualify as a sabbatical, the allowed time away from the job generally exceeds the normal vacation time.
It is also worth noting that sabbaticals are not just extended vacations. In the university setting, it has long been understood that professors away on sabbatical are engaged in activities that further their career or skills in some way. Ultimately, the research, writing, and other avocations professors engage in during this time away should benefit the university and educational system in some way.
Sabbaticals in the corporate world should be viewed in the same way—as an opportunity for the employee to gain new experiences, enhance skills, and increase their potential value to their employer. While rest can certainly be beneficial as a counter to burnout, a sabbatical's primary goal should be focused on more than relaxation and rejuvenation.
Why did it take so long for sabbaticals to catch on?
For many older workers, sabbaticals may seem like a radical new idea. After all, previous generations of workers grew up and worked in eras in which work was a central element of life. During the working lives of many Baby Boomers and those who came before them, workers were expected to balance their home lives around work. Often, work was how those employees defined themselves.
This attitude was so ingrained in society that today's younger workers still talk about “work-life balance”—perhaps subconsciously repeating the idea that work always comes first in order of priority. With that mindset of prioritizing work, it is no great wonder that it took so long for sabbaticals to gain acceptance and greater popularity.
At the same time, however, it is important to understand that times were different generations ago. The relationship between employers and employees was often stronger and more lasting. Moreover, private pensions were more commonplace, particularly in unionized industries, and many workers were able to retire at earlier ages—with greater security.
In contrast, today's workers often find themselves working at many more companies throughout their careers and doing very different work than their parents and grandparents once did. Unions have declined in strength as well, and with them the private pensions that once funded relatively comfortable early retirements. These factors, and a growing sense of worker empowerment due to the pandemic's impact on the labor force, have led many workers to place greater emphasis on finding a better life-work balance—with a renewed emphasis on the “life” part of that equation.
Meanwhile, companies have found themselves in a new environment as well. Thanks to the pandemic's impact on the economy and labor market, millions of jobs remain unfilled. Businesses that previously would have never considered perks, such as sabbaticals, are now giving them a second look. As they do, they are discovering that their companies can share in the benefits that sabbaticals can provide, while creating new incentives that improve employee retention, productivity, and long-term loyalty.
What are the benefits of sabbaticals for employees?
So, what are the benefits that employees like you can receive from a sabbatical, and why should they matter? Yes, it is true that companies like Citigroup and PwC have started allowing sabbatical leave benefits in recent years, but why should you care? Well, as it turns out, taking a sabbatical can offer many benefits for employees.
Reduced stress and burnout
Studies and surveys suggest that American workers' stress is at historic highs, and so too is the burnout rate. In fact, burnout has been cited as a leading factor causing many workers to consider resigning from their jobs in recent years. Sometimes the best way to combat that stress and burnout is to get a change of scenery and time away from the office. A month or two away from your job may be the perfect way to restore balance in your life, combat stress, and recharge your personal batteries.
Enhanced skills that enrich the work and life experience
Whether you want to travel, take time to write poetry, or pursue a hobby, your sabbatical can provide experiences and education that enhance your skills. Used properly, sabbatical leave can provide you with new insights and abilities that will make you a more valuable asset at work, and a more well-rounded person in life.
Greater trust that the company cares about your needs
If you have been feeling detached from your job and employer, being granted the opportunity to take sabbatical leave can go a long way toward restoring that sense of engagement. Sometimes it can be all you need to regain trust in the idea that your employer actually has your best interests in mind. Just be sure to make good use of your leave time so that it ends up being a valuable experience that ultimately benefits your employer too.
Greater time to pursue a personal dream
One of the greatest benefits is the opportunity to pursue a dream. Perhaps there is a trip you have always wanted to take, a mountain that you wanted to climb, or a book that you have always wanted to write. Whatever your dream, sabbatical leave can provide the opportunity to make it a reality.
An ability to gain a new perspective on your job
If you have been in your current job for some time and have started to take the daily grind for granted, you could probably benefit from a new perspective. A month or two away from the office could provide you an opportunity to view your job from a different perspective. Ultimately, that time spent doing other things may give you new insight into your role and rejuvenate your desire to take your career to even greater heights.
Sabbaticals are not offered by every company, and they may not be the best option for every worker. However, if you have the chance to take sabbatical leave and approach it with the right attitude and intent, it could be the perfect way to recharge your energy and get back on the path to advancing your career.
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