There are huge benefits in taking a sabbatical or career break. Studies have shown a decrease in stress levels, an increase in mental abilities and a positive impact on overall wellbeing. But the benefits don’t stop with the individual; there are also huge benefits to business to having a sabbatical programme. In this post we explore nine ways a sabbatical could benefit both your and your workplace.
In this article:
Sabbatical benefits for you
A recent Gallup study of 7,500 people showed that 23% of employees report feeling burned out at work ‘very often’ or ‘always’.
It’s a staggering statistic to consider that one in four people are feeling the effects of overworking, but not necessarily a surprise. Workplace culture over recent years has been described as a religion of workism, with cumulative factors such as modern technology and more competitive environments pushing employees to the brink.
A sabbatical is a perfect way to recharge before you reach the point of burning out. Read Alisa’s story of how she took a career break to avoid burnout to see a real-life example of how it can help.
2. Learn new skills
Taking a career break or sabbatical could give you the time you’ve not had before to learn a new skill.
It might be a skill that will help you in the workplace – such a taking a coding course or an intensive cooking course.
Or it might be something you’ve wanted to take up as a hobby. I’ve interviewed people who’ve learned to dive, completed photography courses or learned to ski.
For some it proves to be a life-changing decision, with a sabbatical being the first step to a new life in a different profession.
3. Achieve a dream
The biggest thing that stops most people from achieving the big things on their bucket list is time. A sabbatical with complete focus on one goal is the perfect solution.
4. Change your perspective
A sabbatical can be a real perspective changer. After my first six weeks in Southeast Asia I realised a number of things about myself that I wouldn’t have done if I’d stayed put.
Here are a couple of highlights:
- I realised I owned too much stuff, and the maintenance of said stuff was decreasing my happiness. We lived out of a backpack for three months with less than 50 items each – and we were no less happy. We both vowed to have a huge clearout when we got home and committed to buying less things, investing the money we freed up into experiences.
- I realised I needed to slow down and appreciate what was around me. On sabbatical were probably some of the first times I had been bored in years, and it was a good thing! We didn’t fill every day with to-do lists and events; often life just washed passed us as we sat and watched. My aim when we returned was to make more time for just being.
A sabbatical can end up changing your perspective so much that your life moves into a completely different lane. Read here how a boiler salesman was inspired by his sabbatical to go into politics.
5. Find new stories
It’s rare that a week goes past where I don’t draw on the stories from one of our sabbaticals.
Don’t worry, I’m not one of those travel bores who bangs on about their adventures (ok, maybe a little guilty) but it’s amazing how much gets remembered when every day is so different.
Think of it like this.
When you passed your driving test, you could probably recount every metre of your first journey when you arrived. Now, you do it on autopilot, barely remembering a second unless something eventful happens.
Life can be the same.
When you operate on autopilot, going through the same routines you’ve done for years, nothing stands out. But when you’re on an adventure, every day is often crammed full of first-time experiences and unusual events.
6. Spend more time with someone you love
A sabbatical is a great opportunity to spend time with people you love.
From packing the family into a motorhome to travel Europe, to taking time to look after a loved one when they fall ill, a career break gives you the time you need to be with the people who need you the most.
It has been the most important thing that’s come out of the sabbaticals I’ve taken.
Touring Asia for three months with Becca gave us more time together at once than we’d ever have before, and more than many couples manage in a lifetime. We learned things about each other that we wouldn’t have expected, and also ended up taking some big decisions about the shape of our next ten years.
Taking a mini-sabbatical before we left for Australia let us tour the UK to spend time with friends and family before heading off on our next big adventure on the other side of the globe.
Sabbatical benefits for your workplace
7. A strong succession plan
One of the biggest benefits of sabbaticals for a workplace is a stronger long-term succession plan. If planned well, one person leaving for a set period of time creates a huge opportunity for another.
For example, when I went on sabbatical in 2017, I gave my employer six months’ notice and also suggested two people in my team who could do my job while I was away. The decision was taken to split my role into two, with each of them taking half the workload. I spent the months before I left upskilling them and gradually handing over responsibility so the transition was smooth. When I returned, the business then had two people who were able to perform at a level higher than their current role, one of whom has now gone on to take greater responsibility.
As you can see, if you give enough notice and help to train people before you go, your sabbatical can actually be a huge benefit to the future talent of the business you work in, and should be a key selling point when you are trying to get it signed off by your boss.
8. They get a better version of you
One of the keys to maintaining your professional credibility during a sabbatical is to come back strong. You need to show your boss that you are thankful for them giving you the time off and that you are ready to hit the ground running.
I found heading back to work after a sabbatical gave me an entirely new energy.
Big problems that I was struggling to solve before now seemed much easier. I had a different perspective, less mental fog and a desire to prove to those around me that I hadn’t just run away, that I was back and I was better than ever!
If you’re ever looking to take a sabbatical again, or want to make sure others in your business are given the opportunity, your boss needs to see you come back as an even better version of yourself. Fired up, raring to go and with a new energy that makes them glad you’re back.
9. It stops you leaving
Most people have a big motivation for their sabbatical. Whether it’s travel, learning a new skill or spending time with a loved one, it’s a burning desire that is normally bigger than their desire to stay at work.
A sabbatical programme gives employees a chance to fulfil these desires without losing their skills from the business. It is a win for the company as well as a win for you. You get to fulfil your dreams, while they don’t have to invest money and resources in finding a long-term replacement. It is estimated to cost six to nine months of an individual’s salary to replace them by the time recruitment, onboarding and training are factored in.
Unlike benefits such as maternity leave and sick pay, providing sabbatical programmes is not a legal requirement. This means employers are deciding to do so because they recognise there is a benefit to them in having a programme in place, both in employee welfare and staff retention.
You can find Ben’s excellent resources on sabbaticals at TheSabbaticalGuide.com.
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