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According to Harvard Business Review, a work sabbatical could be the best thing for you, your career, and possibly your current company.
But what exactly is a work sabbatical?
Quite simply, it’s an extended period away from your career.
The desired and research-backed outcome is that you’ll return to work refreshed and inspired.
Your new lease on your career will result in increased productivity, therefore benefitting your employer.
But a sabbatical isn’t supposed to be some lazy holiday.
While one element of a work sabbatical is to rest and rejuvenate, the primary focus should be on improving yourself and your life.
When Might a Work Sabbatical be Appropriate?
There are a number of common reasons to consider taking a sabbatical:
- Return to school
- To take advantage of a promising business opportunity/start your own business (this could lead to a permanent break from your job)
- Embarking on the travel adventure of a lifetime
- Spending time with/care for loved ones
- Exploring new careers and pet projects
- Stave off burnout or regroup after a layoff (the not so voluntary push into a sabbatical period)
Before you get excited and declare a sabbatical to be your solution OR before you write this off as impossible, there are many considerations to evaluate.
What to Consider Before Taking a Work Sabbatical:
You should be able to define your need for a leave and articulate what you want to accomplish during that time. The purpose of your sabbatical will drive every other consideration for this period.
Thinking about your purpose will answer questions like:
- How long of a sabbatical do I need?
- When should the sabbatical start?
- How would a sabbatical benefit my family (if applicable)?
- How would a sabbatical make me more effective/happier in my career (if I return to it)?
It’s essential to keep your purpose at the forefront of your mind throughout the sabbatical process. It will guide your decision making, drive motivation, and help you assess your progress towards your goals.
If you’re single, this item is less of a consideration. But if others count on you, you need to be sure that your taking a work sabbatical does not negatively impact them. Ideally, they can reap the benefits of having a happier you around more.
Thinking about your family situation will answer questions like:
- What alternate care arrangements may be needed for my children/elderly parents — particularly if I will be traveling without them? If I plan to travel with them, what will they need to ensure that everyone has a relaxed, safe, healthy and happy trip?
- Do my plans involve spending more time with my spouse? What does that look like if they work? If they work from home, will my increased presence impact their ability to get things done?
- Will my plans interrupt schooling or extracurricular activities for my children?
- How will I broach this idea to those family members who may be skeptical? How will I assuage their fears that this won’t impact my long-term ability to contribute to the household?
It’s critical to have the buy-in and support of those closest to you. It’ll be one less point of stress for you, setting everyone up to enjoy the sabbatical period together.
If you’re going to take time away from work (most likely unpaid), you’ll need to make sure your finances are in order, so you don’t find yourself in a deep money hole post-sabbatical.
Thinking about your money situation will answer questions like:
- How much money will I need to fund my sabbatical activities? Where will I get that money?
- What are my usual monthly expenses? How will I continue to cover those expenses? Do I have enough cash on hand? Will I rent out my house? Sell things? Work a side hustle to earn the funds needed?
- Will I have to put my long-term financial goals (paying down debt, saving for retirement, etc.) on hold? If so, how does that make me feel?
- Will I retain my health insurance during this period? If not, how can I secure other health coverage and what will that cost?
While the focus of a work sabbatical is to grow into a better you, it’s important to keep your career in mind– even as you plan to put it on hold.
Thinking about your career situation will answer questions like:
- Does my company offer a sabbatical benefit?* If so, how do I utilize it?
- If there is no sabbatical benefit, am I prepared to quit my job? How much notice would I give?
- How do I effectively transition out of the company (whether temporarily or permanently)?
- If applicable, what will my transition back into the company look like? What has to be done to prepare and set me up for success?
- If I won’t be returning to the same company, how long will it take for me to land another job in that field? Would I even want to stay in the same field? How does the need to secure other employment impact my time away from work?
*Most companies don’t offer a work sabbatical option. However, it is worth speaking with your HR department to check. According to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study, in 2017, 17% of companies offered a sabbatical option to employees. While most are unpaid, it could still bring tremendous peace of mind to know you have a job waiting for you once the sabbatical is over.
Related Post: Going Freelance? Do These Things Before Diving In
Weighing out the facts…
The above is not an exhaustive list of everything that should go into sabbatical planning. You’ll need to consider your unique needs and situation fully before committing to this idea.
The point is really to highlight that while taking a sabbatical can be positively life-changing, it also needs to be backed by sound planning to truly take full advantage of it.
Assessing your situation may have led you to conclude that you can take a sabbatical. Or, the facts as they stand now, may indicate that x, y, and z need to be addressed beforehand. Either way is great!
You’re about to embark on what can be an incredible personal journey. Or, you know exactly what needs to happen to get there.
Many folks don’t ever take the time to consider there are alternate paths from the norm (working full time until traditional retirement).
By thinking through this process, you have opened your mind to the idea that there are other ways of integrating all of the important bits in your life.
If the work sabbatical option isn’t right for you, fear not. There is a creative solution out there that meets your needs.
Article written by Laura