Do you dream of taking a break from your job? (I heard that resounding chorus of “YES!”) Just to be clear though, I’m not talking about a short vacation, I’m talking about six months to a year. I’m sure that most you have had this thought. Many times. Yet (maternity leave aside) this is an undertaking that very few of us indulge in.
The benefits of a sabbatical are obvious; less stress, greater well being, discovery of faraway places, unexplored interests and long held passions. It’s healthy, isn’t it? Yes, without question. However, as with every pro there is a con. And this is what stops so many of us taking up this option. FEAR. How will I pay the mortgage? Will I be perceived as not being dedicated to my job? Will I lose my promotion? Will this kill my career!? We’re so focused on the negatives we don’t bother to explore the possibilities…what if your employer was on board?
Oddly enough studies have demonstrated that where an employee’s desire to take an extended period of time off work is supported by their manager, the employee is actually less likely to take the leave. The manager who provides a supportive and flexible environment will engender a sense of obligation, causing their employees to reciprocate their appreciation through a greater commitment to their role. Extraordinarily logical.
For those of you who are determined to prioritise life over work, you have obviously overcome the fear of potentially derailing your career and risking financial insecurity. And having mentally committed to your plan of action, you have started taking the necessary steps to achieving your goal. Generally this involves a savings plan and launch date. And just to be sure you stay committed to the task at hand, you engage a few of your nearest and dearest in your plans to keep you motivated until crunch time. Not taking a sabbatical is obviously so very easy. Ideally you would like to take a break from work with the knowledge that you have a job to return to, but how do you convince your employer to allow you take a sabbatical without forfeiting your role?
Tip number one; figure out a means to ask for a sabbatical that leaves your options open. You may want to test the attitude of your employer by suggesting that you are considering such a plan. Theoretical negotiations may ensue giving you some guidance as to how to proceed next. Of course you don’t want to spruik your thoughts to all within the office. I’m sure your employer will not be too pleased if you incited a sabbatical frenzy. Remember, flexibility is key with this type of negotiation. The compromise you both reach may be unpaid leave or it may be a strong promise of being rehired into your role upon your return. If you can sell your time off as time spent expanding your skills and experience, you can convince your employer that you will be an even more valuable asset to the organisation upon your homecoming. If the only option available to you is to resign, then do so gracefully and leave the door wide open.
Of course it pays to keep in touch while you are absent. Keeping in contact with the team can make a re-entry to the organisation a lot smoother. You don’t want people to forget about you! You may also want to keep your work colleagues abreast of projects you’re involved in, particularly if they can see that your networks and skill set is developing in a way that is beneficial to the company.
The astute employer will understand the long term benefits of granting a sabbatical to employees. They will instinctively know that it is a clever means to retaining a workforce. Many of us get burned out when we experience extended periods of intense workloads and relentless deadlines. And burn out can lead to a lack of motivation, focus and a feeling of staleness. AKA, job dissatisfaction. This in turn causes many of us to look for better career opportunities elsewhere. Allowing employees the opportunity to rejuvenate will ensure their loyalty.
Many companies now offer paid and unpaid sabbaticals for their employees who want to travel, improve their health, study further and develop their skills, or simply recover from burnout. We all understand that working for 45 years and then retiring to enjoy all that life has to offer is now outdated. We want to be as personally fulfilled as we are professionally while we are still young enough to relish life. So if it is only fear stopping you, I suggest you start organising your farewell party and take yourself on a journey, even if it is only for a year. It will be the best year of your life!