Sabbaticals are not exactly a brand-new trend. A few companies already offer this flexibility to employees with a terrific track record! Of course, there are naysayers too, since it’s quite a risk to let your best employees take that long a break — what if they choose not to come back at all?
Additionally, while sabbaticals are meant for employees to learn a new skill, or find some enrichment, there is always the possibility that they might lose their ‘edge’ that made them distinguished performers at the workplace!
However, sabbaticals are mostly considered an incredible way to help employees gain a fresh perspective, and return to work with new zeal! What’s amazing is that this choice can be helpful not only for the employees but the overall business as well.
A study found that people who take sabbaticals not only experience a decline in stress during their sabbatical but experience an overall stress decline after returning to work as well.
Let’s explore how sabbaticals can prove to be a win-win situation for both the employees and the business and how it can have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line too!
Should Companies Be Really Open to Sabbaticals?
The concept of an employee going on a long sabbatical may seem counterintuitive at first, but offering a paid sabbatical can actually boost productivity and increase employee growth. Below are certain benefits of a sabbatical program to a company:
1. Helps in Employee Retention:
Offering employees a one to two months sabbatical every 7 years can give employees something additional to work towards. This can be particularly effective with younger employees, new to the workforce. The millennials comprise one-third of the workforce and the best way to attract them and minimize turnover rates is to offer them something they really want.
A study revealed that nearly 70% of millennials would prefer to ‘explore, experiment and travel’ prior to retirement, which is higher than other generations, making a sabbatical program particularly attractive to this subset of the workforce.
2. Fosters Employee Growth:
When an employee takes a sabbatical, it doesn’t mean that the work he/she did is going to suffer! A sabbatical program can turn into a unique opportunity, specifically amongst more junior employees who want to expand their skill sets and take on more responsibility in a monitored environment.
The rest of the team has to pitch in to do the work that the manager usually handles. While the employee is away, management and employees must step in, cross train, fill in and find new ways to co-operate. All of this builds greater depth, experience, and flexibility.
3. Promotes Transparency:
It’s dangerous for an organisation to depend too heavily on one employee or one team. Operating in a system that allows all employees to leave for extended periods of time requires workers to have a comprehensive understanding of all responsibilities.
For other workers to appropriately assume responsibilities, the employee taking a sabbatical will have to demonstrate how to complete different projects, how long specific tasks take, update all protocols and so on. This will promote a sense of radical transparency in the company, which will raise accountability between individual employees and boost productivity.
4. Work-life Balance:
Offering a sabbatical to employees cements the idea that your company truly places value on creating a healthy work-life balance.
It shows that you respect the personal lives of your employees as well as their general well-being. A sabbatical helps decrease the level of burnout and increase the level of general health, organisational commitment, and a sense of well-being.
How Companies Should Formulate Sabbatical Policies?
As established above, sabbaticals are a great way to help employees acquire some perspective in their lives, which also have long-term, although unintended beneficial consequences for the organisation.
What a company needs to pay sincere attention to is a well-defined policy for sabbaticals that makes it effective.
1. Who Should be Eligible?
A sabbatical leave policy should encourage employee retention, which is why you should award sabbatical privileges after long and fruitful service.
Once you set the tenure threshold, anyone who meets it should be allowed to take a sabbatical, regardless of other factors, like position within a company.
2. What Should Be the Maximum Duration of a Sabbatical?
There is nothing set in stone when it comes to this, but a sabbatical should definitely be long enough to provide the employee with a true break. For example, a two-week break will more likely feel like a vacation which may not provide a chance to completely step away from work.
On the other hand, a six-week sabbatical gives your employee both time to relax and feel rejuvenated. When creating your policy, ask your employees what they would see as an appropriate amount of time.
3. Should a Sabbatical Be Paid?
Whether a sabbatical should be a paid one or not should really come from what your organisation believes in and feels comfortable doing. Some employees will ask to take an unpaid personal leave of absence, happy enough just to know that their job will be there for them when they return.
While most other people may not be able to afford to take any amount of unpaid time off, let alone six weeks or more. In order to have a truly effective program, it makes sense to pay your employees, not necessarily the full salary, but a certain percentage, which will allow more employees to take time off while still meeting their financial obligations.
It is also crucial to define a scheduled time when your company is comfortable letting go of an employee on a sabbatical. For example, if you have a busy season, it’s best to limit sabbaticals during this time. Managers should work together to make sure that the right combinations of employees or roles remain intact for the organisation to meet its business goals.
It’s impossible to deny that sabbaticals do have an inherent risk of employees abandoning the ship altogether, or returning with no visible transformation! However, there’s also the possibility of an employee returning refreshed, mature, and with a new zeal to give back to the organisation!
Sabbaticals can be a good thing for companies… with the right policy in place!