Fortunate are those who have access to press the pause button and embrace another perspective. That's what a sabbatical is all about! A sabbatical in the most general sense is defined as a time out. Historically educators have leveraged the time from their institutions to travel and do research and return accomplished and anew ready for the next school term. On the other side of the coin, a sabbatical is a period of time that an employee takes a leave of absence from their job. In some instances, these are paid leaves but for the most part, the sabbaticals referenced here are not paid. For this reason, many people don’t take advantage of this valuable benefit. They maintain a hectic pace likely in a job that’s not their sweet spot or passion. Simply because they feel they have to.
There are signs that tell you that you need to take a time out for a sabbatical. For example, dreading Mondays every week can be problematic over time. Getting no joy from the successes you have on the job can be indicative that there’s something in your life that needs to be addressed. When others share with me stories of toxic environments, I often remind them that although they feel they haven’t a choice, they are in fact making the choice to remain in the environment.
In my career, I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to take a sabbatical from my Corporate America job. At the time, it was a necessity. I was completely burned out and ready to throw the towel in. If you think you’re in the same boat, here's a really great MindTools article on determining if you're burned out. Check it out here! Forgive the digression. In actuality, I was at a crossroads between wanting to stay and needing to leave. I was at a good organization that really supported me throughout the years. Sometimes we can put our organizations before our own needs. In this instance, a sabbatical was more than necessary for my well-being so alas my fairy godmother (aka my HR Business Partner whom I'll forever be grateful to) with the support of my Department Head made it happen.
Here's what you have to think about when considering a sabbatical:
A lot of people balk at the thought of taking a sabbatical because they believe they can’t afford it. That limited mindset can cause you to delay this important decision. It’s akin to believing you can’t afford to do an exchange program whilst being a college student. Believe me, I had this thought which is far from the truth. If you are focused, leverage resources available to you, develop and work a plan; your sabbatical can indeed become a reality.
Planning is a critical activity for your sabbatical. Being clear on the amount of time taken off and funds required to support that time period is important to know up front. You can figure that out by calculating your monthly take home and multiplying it by the amount of time you plan to take off. Compare that to the expected monthly expenses to ensure you have adequate coverage. Armed with those data points, I recommend you discuss your plans with your financial planner to ensure you have full visibility of the impact of your decisions.
What is the best time for your sabbatical? Know your current environment. There is more willingness to accommodate a sabbatical if there are minimal disruptions. Meaning is there someone in place to cover your workload without great stressors. Can this be done without cost to the employer? You must also know yourself. What is the best timing for your sabbatical? What do you plan to do on your sabbatical and does the timings align? These are all things to consider when determining the appropriate timing for your sabbatical.
Out of sight out of mind! Do you know where you stand in your organization? Be very clear on how valued you are to the organization. That means, knowing where you're going to land upon your return. Do you need to beef up skills for that next role. Perhaps this is something you can attain whilst out on the sabbatical. Stay in touch while you're out. From time to time, touch base. I don't suggest this from a standpoint of remaining engaged in the work that's happening but instead being open to contact if you're needed. I was actually asked to return early for a multi-day team meeting. Luckily, that happened towards the end of my sabbatical.
Benefits of a sabbatical
I am a proponent for sabbaticals. It's really a life changing opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and embrace ambiguity and allow transformation from an expanded perspective. I do not for one moment regret my 3-month sabbatical, as it's been a career defining moment for me. It taught me resiliency and dependency on my strength to make the right decisions for myself.
Having a timeout to reflect outside of your current environment is indeed beneficial. Benefits of a sabbatical include:
Network Expansion – Sabbaticals allow the time for engagement in activities one might not have the time to embrace under normal circumstances. These activities allow access to a diversity of influences that can support the way we interact with others in the communities we engage in.
Rejuvenation – If you are feeling out of sorts, a sabbatical may be just what the doctor ordered. A dear friend recommended the book “Adrenal Fatigue” by James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., Ph.D., to me when I announced my intention of a sabbatical. The premise of the book speaks focuses on how stress fatigue and associated symptoms can impact one’s everyday life and if not checked cause debilitating consequences. Dr. Wilson shares that “adrenal fatigue affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world in many ways”. A sabbatical can give you the time you need to get adequate rest and exercise and adjustment to your dietary intake if need be. The book offers an adrenal questionnaire to test whether you have adrenal fatigue.
Focus - A sabbatical can allow you to requisite time to get in alignment with your personal goals and objectives. It can allow you to see where you are off course and what you need to do to get back on track. With free time, you can craft an action plan to help you achieve your goals.
Be Still and Do Nothing – Imagine that! For folks with a Type A personality, this can be rather difficult to achieve without encountering guilty feelings. It is definitely a learned behavior to just be still and allow answers to unfold for the person on the constant grind and struggling to hit the brakes. Try it! You may actually like it and you will definitely have time on your sabbatical!
The aforementioned shows there are a number of things to consider in regards to taking a sabbatical. Before you say no to possibility, reflect on the benefits to yourself and subsequently your employer upon the return of a super-engaged and refreshed employee.
I'd love to hear your feedback on whether you've taken a sabbatical or are considering one. Please share any tips or benefits you feel will be valuable to those considering the plunge.
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