Do you love your job, but feel like you need a break?
Or perhaps you dream of going travelling but are not willing to give up your career to do so?
Well, a sabbatical could be just the ticket.
A sabbatical is essentially an extended holiday, usually at least a few months, but with the intention of returning back to work afterwards.
This is something many companies are willing to offer if you just ask and it leaves you in a good position because they’ll keep the role on hold for you… but you actually have no real obligation to go back if you change your mind. (Except perhaps a moral one.)
Why should you go on a sabbatical?
There are a variety of understandable reasons why you might want to take a sabbatical from work, for example:
1. You need a break:
You might really enjoy your current job – but feel a little bit burnt out.
Perhaps something’s been going on in your personal life that has piled on the pressure or maybe you feel you’re not quite ready to handle the stress and responsibility of your particular career.
Sometimes taking a break is the answer that you are looking for; rejuvenating you and helping you to get your passion back.
2. You want to complete a course or upskill your current role:
A lot of people take a sabbatical when they want to complete a course to boost their skills and inevitably their career prospects.
Although you could try and fit this in part-time, it’s quite a lot of pressure to fit around working hours and could cause you to burn out or fall out of love with your job.
Sometimes, companies will even offer a paid sabbatical, if they feel like the skills you would like to learn are valuable to the company and your role.
3. You’ve always dreamed of travelling:
If you’ve always dreamed of travelling the world, then a sabbatical could help you to do this.
You don’t want to get to a point in your career where you look back and regret not taking advantage of this opportunity and wishing you did more with your time.
Many companies also see travelling as a positive attribute, because it shows adventurousness, individualism and independence.
4. Volunteer Work:
Another common reason that people go on sabbatical is to do some charity work or volunteering – which is obviously a great thing to do.
We should all do our bit if and many employers would be open to this kind of sabbatical, especially if it a charity endorsed by the company or that has a special meaning to them.
5. Personal reasons:
You might find that career advisers don’t recommend you take time out for personal reasons. But at the end of the day, you must make a judgement yourself.
If something is going on in your life that you feel you need to take care of and work is getting in the way – or your work is suffering because of your personal circumstances – there is no shame in taking some time out to deal with these things.
If you have a frank conversation with your employers, they should understand where you are coming from. We’re all human.
Paid vs. unpaid sabbatical leave
Unfortunately paid sabbaticals are a lot more rare than unpaid (for obvious reasons).
As mentioned above, these are much more likely to be offered if you are taking time off to complete training relevant to your role. Or sometimes for voluntary work.
However, if you never ask, you never get – so it’s worth speaking to someone at work to find out whether sabbaticals (paid or unpaid) could be offered.
Many companies would offer them (paid or unpaid), but won’t advertise that fact.
If you decide to take unpaid leave, pre-planning is essential to ensure that you will be financially stable throughout!
How to request sabbatical leave
So, if you’ve decided you really want to take a sabbatical, in most cases it’s best to approach your Line Manager.
But before you do so, make sure you are prepared.
First things first, check over your contract and see if sabbaticals are mentioned anywhere. Many companies use them as a work perk to attract new recruits and therefore are likely to shout about them.
If a sabbatical is not stated in your employment contract, but the company has employed you for numerous years, they still may be willing to offer you one! So don’t give up.
Then, get some kind of idea of what you want to do with your sabbatical – and some good reasons why you think they should accept, before approaching anyone. Then:
As we have already stated, don’t present a full plan to your employer that leaves little or no room for negotiation. Start by saying that you are merely considering the chance to take a sabbatical.
Show your employer that you are wholly committed to returning to employment by being flexible on the time scale of your sabbatical. Delaying your plans by a few months may help your employer agree to your proposition.
3. Know the risks:
Your employer may only state that they ‘intend’ to re-employ you, it may not be written into a contractual agreement. You need to consider whether you’re willing to take the risk of coming back to no job, if this is the case.
4. Focus on the positives:
If you highlight the skills, knowledge, and experience that you may acquire during this time; it is more likely that your employer will view it as positive.
5. Keep it quiet:
Don’t tell everyone what you are intending to do because it may give them ideas and if loads of people start asking for sabbaticals, no one is likely to get one.
A Final Note
You may be unable to negotiate a sabbatical with your employer. Unfortunately, that’s life.
But if you really feel like this is something you need right now, you may have to bite the bullet and hand in your resignation.
If your sabbatical is granted, then we recommend that you stay in contact where possible with your employer to reassure them that you do mean to return.
This contact will ensure you keep in touch on friendly terms and will stop them panicking and hiring someone else.
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