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How Work Sabbaticals Can Be Helpful To Employers And Employees?

Many employees will agree that work sabbatical is undoubtedly one of the highlights of employment. With a chance to be away from work from an extended period, employees can maximize their temporary freedom and be dedicated to other personal needs. However, what makes being away from work such a great thing?

Work sabbaticals are great for employees and employers alike. Below, we have highlighted some of the benefits sabbatical offers and why these benefits are nothing short of amazing.

What Is A Work Sabbatical?

Organizations make an extra effort to help their employees balance their work and personal lives better. They do this by providing different types of leave. These work leaves are for different purposes and usually include sick leave, parental leave, and sabbatical, among others. Of all different types of work leave, the sabbatical is one of the least common types.

A sabbatical leave is best described as an extended period away from work. Depending on the organization, this leave might be paid or not. 

During a sabbatical leave, the employee is usually fully away from work. This means they are not required to fulfill any job roles or be productive as an employee.

The purpose of a sabbatical leave is not usually spelled out, unlike sick leave, for example, which offers a break based on health grounds. Sabbaticals are merely a chance for every employee to regroup, go on vacations, or simply learn a skill.

Is A Work Sabbatical The Same As A Vacation?

Although a vacation and a sabbatical mean an employee gets time away from work, they do not necessarily mean the same thing. They have key differences that set them apart.

Firstly, a work sabbatical is an extended leave of absence from work while vacations are shorter. This leave is usually granted to employees that have been with an organization for a certain amount of years. It is a form of incentive that is usually unlocked after those years. Conversely, vacations are shorter and limited, no matter how generous a company’s paid time-off (PTO) policy is.

Secondly, a vacation is mostly recreational. A work sabbatical, on the other hand, is to let employees meet their personal or professional development needs. Essentially, while a vacation might be part of sabbaticals, a work sabbatical is used for leisure, taking a course, or any other preferred activity.

How Does A Sabbatical Leave Work?

Traditionally, sabbatical leaves used to be reserved for employees in academic professions. In fact, they were first offered by Harvard University in the late 17th century as a means of providing its staff with ‘renewal’ to increase productivity.

The word “Sabbatical” itself is said to have deeply religious roots and is intricately linked to the Greek word “Sabbaton”. It mirrors the biblical concept of the mention of the word “Sabbath” in the Bible which transfers to mean “day of rest”. Essentially, it is easy to see that sabbaticals are used to give employees rest.

Soon, professors were not the only ones who could enjoy a sabbatical leave. Sabbaticals began to be popularized in non-academic work environments in the 21st century.

However, even now, sabbaticals are not as popular as many other types of work leave. In 2018, a study showed that about 15% of employers offered their employees a sabbatical leave. However, only 5% of these employees offered paid leave.

How a sabbatical leave works depends entirely on an organization’s policy. These policies state when an employee is eligible for sabbatical leave (which is usually after 5-7 years of working with the organization), how long the leave will be, and if the leave will be paid or not.

Regardless of what the policies state, sabbatical leaves are undoubtedly beneficial to employees and the organization they work with. 

A teacher standing in front of a blackboard and facing students.
Sabbatical leaves used to be reserved for professors in the past.

Types Of Sabbatical Leaves

Sabbatical leaves are usually divided into paid and unpaid leaves. Although these may be the two major types of sabbaticals, many organizations make room for a third type, which is partial-paid sabbatical.

Paid sabbaticals mean employees continue to make money even while away from work. In paid sabbaticals, employees can be paid a full salary or only a percentage written in the company policy (which is the concept of partial-paid sabbaticals). 

Conversely, an unpaid sabbatical means the employee only gets time off (no pay, whatsoever). 

Although the concept of a paid sabbatical leave is an extended but paid holiday from work, it usually comes in types. The types of sabbatical leave might vary with the organization but is usually divided in two parts:

  • Full-time Sabbaticals

Full-time sabbaticals are usually offered to employees that have worked with an organization for a minimum of five years. The terms of a full-time sabbatical vary with the organization, meaning the duration and payment terms are different with organizations.

For a full-time sabbatical, employees are supposed to notify their employers at least 30 days before. This will give them both the time to deliberate the length of the leave and if they would like to keep the employee on the payroll for that duration or settle for a percentage (of about 90%) of the salary instead.

  • Part-Time Sabbaticals

Employees are usually eligible for a part-time sabbatical after a minimum of ten years of employment. For some organizations, the concept of part-time sabbaticals is employees only get part payment during their leave. Like full-time sabbaticals, the terms of a part-time sabbatical vary with the organization.

A tired man sitting at his desk in an office.
Sabbaticals help employees avoid burn-out and remain motivated.

Benefits Of Sabbatical Leaves For Employees And Employers

Sabbatical leaves offer numerous benefits in the workplace. Some of these benefits include:

1. Employee Rejuvenation

It isn’t uncommon for employees to feel burnt out from work. Regardless of how comfortable businesses try to make their environment be for the staff or how organizations try to create reasonable work schedules for the workers, stress is inevitable for employees. In the long run, and this isn’t usually a very long time, this stress can lead to employee burnout.

Needless to say, employee burnout is detrimental to both the employee and the business they work for. It causes physical and emotional exhaustion that will usually lead to a decline in employee productivity. Seeing that employee productivity is the fuel of any successful business, burnout is a major problem that any employer needs to help their employees combat.

The best way to avoid burnout is to get refreshing breaks in-between work. Sabbaticals offer this much-needed break that employees need. By taking an extended period off work, employees get all the time they need to relax, regroup, and realign their seminal needs.

Sabbaticals provide the chance for employees to be rejuvenated and refreshed enough to return and give their all to their jobs. For the employee, this new-found motivational well they tap into means they are able to get more creative and productive. For the employer, it means employees can go through tasks faster, be more efficient, and make the company more productive.

2. Personal Achievements

Sabbatical leaves give employees the chance they need to hone a special skill. 

Many employees rarely get the time they need to develop themselves outside their jobs. Jobs can be very demanding, requiring employees to dedicate as much time as they can to the tasks they are paid for. This leaves little to no time for employees to focus on improving their skills and abilities.

These skills are not only necessary for the employee’s self-growth but also the advancement of the business. By giving employees a chance to tick personal achievements off their to-do lists, they also help employees become better versions of themselves. This better version is what an employer gets when employees realize and achieve their personal goals and growth.

With sabbatical leaves, employees can take time off to learn a new language, go on trips, take advanced courses in their field, discover new technology in their field, and lots more. This inspires them and enables them to be more efficient and forward-thinking. 

For employers, this is an investment as employees usually come back with experience and a wider perspective in handling their tasks.

3. Better Health

A healthier employee is a happier one. A healthier employee is also one that can perform all their duties and responsibilities better at work. Basically, an employee’s health and their productivity go hand-in-hand.

Employee health and safety is not only important when it complies with occupational health and safety regulations. It is also essential for the success of the company. 

Overworking, work stress, personal habits, and events from their personal life all negatively affect an employee’s health. This not only makes it difficult for them to be fully active in their personal life but also makes it difficult to perform duties at their workplace, thereby making them lose interest in work

Sabbatical leaves give employees the opportunity they need to get enough physical and mental rest. This reduces the chance of illness. 

4. Care And Support

Nothing makes employees feel better than knowing the organization they work with cares about wellness and needs. Knowing they are backed by the full support of their company makes employees feel needed and like a part of the organization, not a simple disposable worker.

When an employee sees that the company commits to their well-being, it helps them feel more valued. This improves workplace culture and relations, thereby fostering team spirit.

A study by APA discovered that valuing employees results in a boost in well-being and performance. Employees that feel valued at work report better physical and mental health, engagement at work, satisfaction, and motivation that helps them excel in their office duties.

Sabbatical leaves essentially increase employee morale, making them more committed to dxceling at their duties as employees.

5. Reduced Turnover

There are many reasons why companies experience stunted growth. A high employee turnover rate is one of these many reasons.

Sabbatical leaves are the reason some companies do not experience high employee turnover rates. By giving their staff the necessary break they need to rediscover themselves as humans and assets to a company, companies can retain talented individuals and reduce the occurrence of resignations within the company.

This is a significant benefit because losing employees can be expensive for companies. Constantly losing employees mean companies have to work hard to continuously fill empty seats with. To do this, they have to recruit, hire, and train new employees. Not only is this challenging, especially since retaining old employees saves money, but it can continuously cause interceptions in the production of a company.

6. Differentiate The Business

For companies with really tight competition or in  really competitive industries, sabbatical leaves are a great way to stand out. This comes in handy when trying to recruit top talents.

Gone are the days when people choose to work at just any organization as long as they get paid enough to make a living. Now, employees choose to work with companies that not only align with their professional growth and goals, but also those that meet their needs as they do so.

Not all businesses offer sabbatical leaves. As a result, businesses that do are usually seen as the better choice for employees. Sabbatical leaves are incentives or perks that make businesses look more attractive than their competitors, thereby giving them a better chance with potential recruits and top talents.

7. Appreciate Long-Time Employees 

What better way to say “thank you” to long-time employees than giving them time off with added benefits? Every employee, especially those that have worked a long time with an organization, often enjoys being appreciated individually and not just as part of a team.

Although a plaque on a workplace notice board is a great way to help a long-time employee feel appreciated, is it really enough for someone who has dedicated year’s of their life to service? 

Work sabbaticals are a great way to reward employees for sticking with the organization this far. This offers motivation, makes them feel appreciated, and enable them be more productive at work.

Things To Include In A Sabbatical Leave Policy

Work sabbatical policies are different in different organizations. However, some things that are usually found in a sabbatical leave policy include:

  • How long is an employee required to work with the organization before being considered eligible?
  • How long will the sabbatical be?
  • Will the paid time off count towards the minimum working period?
  • How often can employees take work sabbatical leaves?
  • Will all the employees be eligible or are sabbatical leaves only meant for certain job roles?
  • The minimum number of days an employee is required to accept the sabbatical leave before they lose those days.
  • Will the sabbatical leave be paid or unpaid?
  • What employees are eligible for full-time sabbaticals?
  • What employees are eligible for part-time sabbaticals? 
  • Will the employee be allowed to work a part-time job at a different company?
  • Is there a penalty for not returning to work after the leave period?
  • Can the leave be extended?
  • Can the organization refuse a sabbatical application? Under what circumstances?

Should You Offer Your Employees A Work Sabbatical?

When deciding if you should offer your employees a work sabbatical, there are lots of factors to consider. These factors range from how long they have worked with the organization to how long the proposed sabbatical should span.

Sabbaticals are a great way to incentivize loyal employees and help them enjoy a great work-life balance. Are you looking for more ways to use work-life balance to retain top talents in your company? Check out our guide on retaining employees using a good work-life balance strategy!

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