Even if you love your job and look forward to diving into work every morning, it’s normal to feel burnout. Particularly now: since we’ve all been through a global pandemic that’s left most of us feeling drained, exhausted, on edge, and wondering what could possibly come next. There is a strain on our mental, physical, and emotional health as we navigate a complex world with global unrest, hybrid working environments, and increased pressures, says Bridgitt Haarsgaard, a career coach and the CEO and founder of The GAARD Group.
Meet the Experts
Bridgitt Haarsgaard is a career coach and the CEO and founder of The GAARD Group.
Susan Hite is the CEO of PsychoGeometrics.
Because of this, many businesses have experienced “The Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting,” as professionals have very little left to give. However, a sabbatical has become an increasingly popular request for those who don’t want to throw in the towel and merely need a break. “Even if a company does not have a formal sabbatical benefit, employees are asking for time away to reset,” Haarsgaard says. “Companies realize the importance of individuals stepping away from their role and taking time for themselves and their own mental clarity.”
If you are nodding along in agreement, desperate for a moment to pause, and collect your thoughts and energy, maybe it’s time for you to ask for a sabbatical. Here, we talked with career experts to better understand the benefits of this new professional reset.
What Is a Sabbatical?
In the simplest of terms, Haarsgaard says a sabbatical is an extended period away from the day-to-day responsibility of your role, usually anywhere from six weeks to one year. It is essentially time away from work and can last from 6 weeks to up to a year. During this period, employees are still employed and paid, or at least provided a percentage of their salary. Beyond the basics, Haarsgaard says the “modern sabbatical is an individual’s pursuit of purpose — and a tool for organizations to attract top talent, develop high potential employees, shrink turnover rates, and improve employee satisfaction.”
For the employer and for the employee, sabbaticals are incredibly helpful and impactful. Here, Haarsgaard outlines the benefits:
- Allows more junior team members to stretch their skills and gain knowledge.
- Reduces employee burnout and turnover.
- Builds a brand supporting employee needs, mental health, and well-being.
- Improved work/life balance.
- Renewed commitment to your role.
- Mental clarity to discover new ways to improve their role and help the organization.
- Allows you to focus on personal goals.
What Are Signs You Might Need a Sabbatical?
Rather than dramatically entering your manager’s office and declaring you’re done, take a deep breath. You may not need to throw a grenade into your whole life — you may just need a break. Here, some clear indicators that a sabbatical might change your career and perspective.
When you feel “blah” — it shows up in all you do. Instead of being excited and enthusiastic for accomplishments, opportunities and tasks, you feel smothered by them. Or, you feel nothing at all. When you’re struggling with apathy, Haarsgaard says you may neglect your responsibilities, even if you know there will be negative ramifications. This means you leave projects unfinished and emails unopened and, basically, disengage. “Apathy is present if you just don’t care much about anything,” she says. “If you are feeling apathetic, it may be time for sabbatical leave.”
Lack of Recognition
While, no, you probably shouldn’t expect a gold star and pat on the back for every little thing you do at work, you may need a break if your employer leaves you feeling underappreciated. Over the last two years, Haarsgaard has heard an increasing number of complaints from employees that their companies do not recognize their efforts. “Compounding this issue is that most people are now expected to give more effort, with fewer resources, and employees feel stretched, overworked, and burnt out,” she continues. “The lack of recognition also feels like a lack of respect.”
When this happens, you can feel frustrated and taken for granted, but Haarsgaard says you could also lose sight of your worth and value, making a sabbatical a good idea.
Have you been having more meltdowns than normal? Feel constantly on edge? Lose your temper quickly? Haarsgaard says if you find yourself annoyed and aggravated by even the smallest of things at work, and it has been going on for some time, this could indicate that it is time for a sabbatical. “Heightened emotions include lashing out at a colleague for a small mistake, a significant frustration with your manager over things that are not within their control, or being short with a customer,” she says.
How to Ask for a Sabbatical — and Get It
Once you’ve decided a sabbatical could help you find yourself again, it’s time to create a winning proposal. Here’s how.
Do Your Research
Before you go in asking for a few months of paid time off, it’s essential to understand your company’s policies, says Susan Hite, the CEO of PsychoGeometrics. At face value, you’ll want to understand if they already have a sabbatical policy and, if so, their track record offering it to employees.
“Start reviewing the written policy, then research if they have previously granted sabbaticals. Find out who has taken a sabbatical previously and if possible, interview them about how it worked,” Hile suggests. Some questions to ask include:
- What were the benefits and challenges?
- Did they accomplish their goals?
- Was the time they took sufficient?
- Were they paid the same salary? No salary?
- How do you keep your seniority and benefits?
- Is there an option to go part-time? After a sabbatical, will you be able to return to the same role or just a role?
Identify the Process and the People Involved
Now, you’ll need to get started with the right process and support team. While some companies require a formal letter or email, others are fine with starting the sabbatical opportunity with a conversation. In this case, make sure to speak to them so they will hear you loud and clear.
“If the protocol is to talk with someone first, or at any time during the process, consider their communication style or preference for receiving communication. If you don’t know, ask someone you know who has worked with them,” Hite says. “You can raise the probability others will be receptive, even motivated to hear from you, when you approach them in the way they prefer to be approached, which shows you respect their communication preferences.” Once you’ve opened up the discussion, you can better understand the appropriate paperwork and timeline of a sabbatical leave.
Present Your Plan as a Win-Win
Now, it’s time to make your case! Hite says you should go into a negotiation knowing what you want but also anticipating what the company wants or values the most when it comes to your contribution. Or in other words: A successful negotiation means there’s a win-win.
“Ask, and actively listen to identify or confirm what the company needs most. If you can ensure they get what they want, that their problem is solved or their concern is met, you have a much better chance of getting what you want,” she continues. “Be aware of and sensitive to the needs of the company, your team, and your manager while you are on sabbatical. Demonstrating that you care makes others feel understood. When others feel understood, they are more likely to be understanding of your needs.”