Yes, we’re in the midst of a crazy, mutating, virus-caused pandemic. But, depending on your circumstances, a sabbatical could be a win-win for both an employee and their employer. (And just to be clear, those three months quarantined in your house definitely don’t qualify as a sabbatical.)
While not for everyone, let’s consider:
- Why an employer might consider giving a sabbatical
- Why an employee might consider taking one
- What you might do on one (even right now during COVID-19)
What is a Sabbatical?
If you already know what a sabbatical is, you can skip this section. A sabbatical is a paid or unpaid break from work. It’s offered to an employee after a certain length of employment and can last two to twelve months. Typically, the employee will continue receiving their employer’s benefit package and return to their employer at the end of the sabbatical.
Employers: Why Might You Consider Offering a Sabbatical to an Employee (Now or Later)?
COVID-19 is hitting organizations differently, some more severely than others. If you recently re-opened your business and need all hands on deck, this may not be a good time for you to consider offering sabbaticals, much less write a sabbatical policy.
However, if you’re worried about revenues this fall, you may consider offering an unpaid sabbatical to a valuable employee or two. It may be a solution to keep your great employees during a time when you’re unsure if you can pay them their current salary–at least until the economy is more stable. In this case, offering a sabbatical could be a win-win, meeting both your and your employee’s needs.
Now let’s look into the future when the economy is stronger and your organization is more acquainted with the “new normal”.
Here are some reasons you might consider offering sabbaticals later on:
- They can help differentiate your organization when recruiting top talent.
- They can help retain long-term employees.
- They can help strengthen your organization by cross-training other staff to temporarily assume the employee’s responsibilities.
- You can give aspiring young talent a chance to step up and show what they can do.
- When your employee returns post-sabbatical, you get a refreshed team member awash with new ideas and an amped up battery. (How might this new energy affect your organization, clients, projects and remaining team?)
Employees: Here’s Why You Might Consider Taking a Sabbatical (Now or Later)
Prior to retirement, employees have very few options for taking an extended period of time off. Some may do so between career changes, either voluntary or involuntary. If you can swing it, taking a significant break between jobs is, in fact, a great time to take a sabbatical.
But what about those who’ve worked at the same company for 10-15 years and are feeling a little crisped? Even the most fulfilling career leaves little room to deeply pursue other interests and fully recharge depleted batteries.
While not without risks (but what worthwhile is?), taking a sabbatical while employed can be the perfect way to re-energize your career and enrich your life. Studies confirm, more employees are unengaged from work than are engaged in their work. And COVID has certainly added to our level of stress, uncertainty and engagement. So, what’s your current state of engagement and mood with your work?
I understand that everyone’s work situation is different right now. While now might not be the perfect time to take a sabbatical, what might one look like in your future?
What Would You Do on a Sabbatical?
What you decide to do during a sabbatical (and the reasons behind it) can be wide-ranging. You may want time and space to think more deeply about life, to develop personally, to write a book, to travel, to work abroad doing something you love, to volunteer in a third-world village, etc.
Getting Creative (or Adventurous) During the Pandemic
While the pandemic is temporarily preventing us from traveling abroad to many countries, the US is filled with 49 other states to explore. We may need to get more creative and rearrange what we plan on doing during our sabbatical, but many of our options can still happen or be revised.
Maybe your best sabbatical is to grab a pair of sturdy shoes, a journal, a camera, and a spirit of adventure…and not plan every detail. Rather let the blessing of an uninterrupted, extended time off fill your soul and renew your spirit with wonder.
We can go through this period of uncertainty frightened and depressed—or we can view our career through a long-term lens, as it should often be viewed.
Planning for the Future
An enlightened mind has a clearer perspective to make decisions about the best future move for your career, whether you were just laid off or furloughed, or you are just happy to be working now. Why not take the first step to journal ideas for what your ideal sabbatical will look like and take it when the timing works for you (and your employer)? In the meantime, use your weekends judiciously to recharge and consider taking your unused vacation time.
For some good additional reading on sabbaticals, here are some articles I recommend:
- 6 Modern Sabbatical Ideas (www.remoteyear.com)
- Why Employers Should Embrace Sabbatical Leave Programs (www.forbes.com)
- What is a Sabbatical Leave Policy? Things to Consider (www.indeed.com)
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Next month’s topic is on building strong teams.