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SABBATICAL—why you deserve one and how to convince your boss.

Yes, of course, you deserve a break. If work is doing your head in, is it time to seek a sabbatical?. .. proper.


A sabbatical is when you take an extended break from work. The reasons may vary from pursuing a degree or working on a personal project to volunteering, travelling the world, or spending more time with family.


Unlike other types of leave, a sabbatical usually lasts a month to a year. It's, therefore, a form of employee benefit.

Even enlightened bosses can prove hard to persuade that you deserve a sabbatical. Only about 5% of employers even entertain the idea. Even fewer offer this benefit on a paid basis. So whatever the gains, your request faces some considerable obstacles.

Yet the number of employers granting sabbaticals has been growing exponentially. According to a 2023 study when their organisations fail to offer them, many more workers take their leaves unpaid.


What kind of sabbatical person do you want to be?

You may be one of three main types:

Seeking a working holiday: You may be drawn to a sabbatical to pursue a passion project. During it, you might switch between intense work periods and dedicated breaks to rest and rekindle long-neglected relationships.

Free Divers: You are driven by wanderlust. Having read inspiring memoirs or having heard friends’ stories, you may have reached the point where you “need an adventure and a kind of a soul reset”. For you, "it's now or never."

Questers: You aren't hungry for projects or adventures. Instead, you're being pushed out of work by unsustainable expectations and perhaps a toxic organisational culture. Exhausted and burned out, for you, the sabbatical is a last resort because it's untenable to continue on your current path. Each of them demands a different explanation to present to the organisation.

THE BENEFITS

You may need to spell out what you mean by a sabbatical for your boss. For example, it doesn’t mean an all-expenses break in a luxury resort in the sun somewhere. It usually consists of a planned break to promote personal growth and development.

An argument you can make when seeking a sabbatical is that those able to take a sabbatical or extended leave of absence tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction and are less likely to quit. They also tend to have higher levels of creativity and are more productive when they return to work.


It could encourage you to stay and not look for another job. Depending on your current role, that could make money sense to the bean counters.

Many companies know that generous sabbaticals pay. Their offers usually depend on you being with the company for several years. For example, Adobe software giant offers a sabbatical program of four weeks of paid time off and an additional week for five years of service.


Patagonia, Intel, Google, and Deloitte also offer sabbatical programs to all full-time employees. They must have been with the company for a certain number of years. The time off is usually to pursue personal interests, education, or travel.


These policies can vary in terms of location and position. Companies may also change their sabbatical policies at short notice. For example, it’s a safe bet that few people in the tech industry will win a sabbatical with all the current job losses underway.

MAKE IT HAPPEN


First, let’s assume that you have a decent employer and believe you can gain a sabbatical. Remember, you can’t expect one if you don’t even ask!

Second, you may need to make your request more attractive, for example, by negotiating half-pay only.


Third, how will you approach your boss about your desire for a three-month sabbatical? Explain precisely why you want this to happen and the possible short, and long-term benefits for you and the organisation. You can demonstrate this in a face-to-face meeting. But it would be best to show you have thought this whole thing through by providing useful support documentation.

Here’s the sort of message you might address to your boss.

Dear [Boss],

I’m asking you to consider granting me a three-month sabbatical from my current role here. I realise this may seem a big ask, and I would like to explain why I believe this is necessary and beneficial for myself and the company.

First, I’ve been with the company for several years now. Throughout this time, I’ve been working hard to meet and exceed your expectations in my job description.

While I have enjoyed the work, I am starting to feel burnt out and need a break. Taking a sabbatical would allow me to recharge my batteries and return to work refreshed and better equipped to tackle any challenges that come my way.

I have consistently gone above and beyond my role during my time here. I‘ve also taken on extra responsibilities, worked long hours when necessary, and have always strived to meet and exceed my targets.

A sabbatical would benefit the company as well. By taking the time to step back and reflect on my work, I can identify areas where I can improve and come back with fresh ideas and perspectives.

This break would also allow me to develop new skills or learn new things, which I can bring back to the company and apply to my role.

My absence for three months may be a challenge for the company. But I am willing to work with you to create a plan to cover my responsibilities during this time. I am happy to train someone else to do my duties or provide support remotely.

Finally, taking a sabbatical would be the best decision for me and the company. It will allow me to rest and recharge, develop new skills and perspectives, and return to work with renewed enthusiasm and energy.

With your support, we can make this happen. I look forward to discussing this further with you.


Sincerely, [Your Name]


What are your chances of this working? On average, the ease with which you can gain a three-month paid sabbatical will depend on factors such as your employer’s policies, the industry, current job role and performance.

It isn’t easy to generalise your chances of success. But if you’re interested in pursuing a sabbatical, an important step is to research your organisation’s policies.

Next, speak with your manager or human resources representative to discover whether this benefit might be available and what requirements must be met to qualify.


Depending on your commitment to obtaining a sabbatical, you must marshal your forces to win the result. That means seeking out supporters and others who can champion your proposal. Just because nobody in your organisation has been previously granted a sabbatical does not mean you can't be the first.


Read: N. Verlinden, Employee Sabbatical Leave: Everything You Need to Know, https://www.aihr.com/blog/sabbatical-leave


K. Schabram, Transformative Power of Sabbaticals, HBR, Feb 2023, https://hbr.org/2023/02/research-the-transformative-power-of-sabbaticals

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