Sabbatical Leave – How it is Racing Ahead of Other Employee Benefits

A promising perk that proves to be a boon both for employees and organization, Sabbatical Leave has transformed from being a niche wonder to a mainstream benefit

I remember one of my colleagues at work was toying with the idea to pursue a super awesome design course as he could really use a pause in professional path to explore and develop his talents.

Sensing his strong inclination to do the course, the employees’ manager encouraged him to go for a 2 month long sabbatical to come back energized with new insights.

This thoughtful gesture by boss not only benefitted the employee who could satisfy his learning instincts but also earned the organization a loyalist who would proudly represent its values.

Not very long ago, employers would have laughed off or cringed at the idea of giving paid or even unpaid hiatus to employees. But the idea of having career break to sort out ones’ worklife equilibrium has arrived and that too in a big way!

How Companies Warmed up to the Idea of Sabbatical Leave

New age workforce came equipped with strong wave of technology and on premise peppiness that bred speedy innovation, sleek processes and positive work aggression.

However, this brought about proportional changes in employee expectations and behavior.

They expect to be paid really well (which makes competition to easily hook and poach them) and they expect to work for a company that really gets them (which means companies that offer differentiating incentives that address the humane side of work).

Sabbaticals are increasingly featuring in the leave policy across global organizations due to following reasons:

Companies want to be savvy in retaining talent:

Call them non-traditional perks, soft benefits or intangible perquisites, sabbaticals and other similar time off management programs like flexible work schedules, job sharing, leave sharing, etc. are gaining popularity with modern day employees rather than monetary raises and commissions.

Using these unorthodox measures, employers are having better success scores in tempting and retaining potential talent.

Employers treat it as a training platform:

Sabbaticals are treated as opportunity to train employees as they cover work of someone else, giving them exposure to wide array of enterprise roles and function.

This develops new skills among employees that otherwise would have been difficult to learn. Thereby sabbaticals serve as career development platform for high potential employees who fill in temporarily.

Employers want investments to payoff:

Sabbatical leave is synonymous with reinvention and rejuvenation.

Investing in employee time off has shown to generate returns in terms of fresh ideas, recharged enthusiasm, and better performance.

Not to forget the employee returns feeling great and committed for the company.

Sabbaticals have less comparative costs:

When pitched against recruiter fees, cost of retraining and other retention tools, paid time off is still an affordable option that lets you save on both – money and headache to hunt for new talent.

Sabbaticals position the brand in positive light:

Sabbaticals can immediately get you noticed by Gen Y and Gen Z who value professional efforts no more than personal time and interests.

Also, sabbaticals are great to attract women workforce who might need additional support in terms of paid leave for maternity break and child rearing.

All and all these things add up as an advantage for your organization brand.

Why Employees Love Sabbaticals?

Given a chance, hardly any employee would say no to the idea of going on a sabbatical.

For each person the motivation might be different (pursue hobby/passion, family time, travel, charity work, education, vocational courses, de-stressing and so on) but the underlying reality is common – “The motivation requires special focus that can’t be accommodated along with regular office work”.

And sabbaticals do just that – Help to fulfill this inner or long awaited motivation.

The motivation requires special focus that can’t be accommodated along with regular office work

Some of the pluses experienced by employees who take sabbaticals include:

Better interpersonal relationships:

Employees can actually log off and connect with family and friends.

Also, once they are back to work, their relationship with colleagues and seniors is improved as the same people are seen with a new lens.

Relaxed and confident Self:

A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that sabbaticals don’t just temporarily decrease stress while you’re on vacation; they keep your stress levels down even after you’ve gone back to work.

This is the precise reason why Intel gives its employees a 8 week sabbatical every 7 years as the rejuvenation translates into technological breakthroughs.

Intel gives its employees a 8 week sabbatical every 7 years

Updating the KSA version:

While we eagerly await updates for our phone and apps, sabbaticals allow for upgrading our knowledge, skill, and attitude (KSA) version to the latest possible one.

This effort gives a better experience to ourselves and the people around us in the day-to-day dealings; thus it comes as a no surprise that 37% of employees value paid time off more than a pay raise (as per Glassdoor Survey, 2015)

37% of employees value paid time off more than a pay raise

Boost to Professional Life:

Sabbaticals offer risk-free opportunity to individuals who want to explore other career options or research the job market without the fear of losing out on pay or job.

Also, those who advance their academic qualifications during this period can look forward to pay hikes and promotions once they return to work.

This in turn may convert into more savings for retirement and vacations. It’s like having a new job altogether!

Technology too has played its small role in making the sabbaticals a success without loss of communication, clashes or overlaps.

With latest HR software, it is becoming easy for the companies to keep track of employee time offs and schedule sabbaticals without harming organization or team productivity.

Someone has quoted very rightly on behalf of entire work community –

“Take time out for a soulful sabbatical. A day, a week, a single breath.”


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Written By

Mitalee Chhatre

Mitalee, a true professional with over 5 years of corporate experience in Human Resources and Health Sector. Contributor on CakeHR where tracks the newest trends and practices of the work-life world.