Why You Should Be Offering Sabbaticals

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I recently did something that only the bravest men and women dare to do in our day and age. It was wild and unprecedented and took a great deal of self-control to see it through. I put down my smart phone, shut my laptop when I was finished working and passed along my iPad to my daughter to play Angry Birds for a little while. I, the self-proclaimed queen of social media, took a social media sabbatical. What’s even crazier than the fact that I underwent a digital detox is the fact that I actually enjoyed it.

If you know me, you know I’m all over Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and an ungodly amount of other social media sites. It’s a major part of my life, my work and even my entertainment, but I realized I needed to take a step back and create some new experiences in real life. I was able to gain some perspective about my job, my family and myself that crowdsourcing just couldn’t provide.

My much-needed social sabbatical also got me thinking about the growing popularity of workplace sabbaticals. Sabbaticals are nothing new, though the industries in which we are seeing them offered are growing. There was a time when sabbaticals were only popular for university educators, clergymen and artists, but they’re now a part of corporate workplaces as well. In fact, nearly one-fourth of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For offer sabbaticals, and their industries include everything from retail stores to software companies.

A lpt of companies are skeptical about sabbaticals because just like many other perks, it can have a financial impact on the business and an impact on the workflow. There’s no denying that responsibilities will need to be shifted and rearranged when an employee is on sabbatical, but there is also a lot to be gained by providing this option to employees.

Paid sabbaticals allow employees time to discover new interests, travel, volunteer or just rest and relax. They can be any amount of time, though three months is about average. Many employees who take sabbaticals report that they come back to work renewed and inspired, even saying that it feels like they’re coming back to a new job. It’s easy for hardworking employees to get burnt out, even when they love what they do, and especially when they’ve been with the same company for several years. This time off allows them to recharge and come back as motivated and inspired as they were when they first stepped through your doors.

It’s no secret that when employers invest in their employees, they see a difference in loyalty to the company. Offering paid sabbaticals shows employees that your company genuinely cares about their growth and interests. If you’re looking for more concrete signs, watch as your retention rate increases after offering sabbaticals. Not only does it provide incentive to stay with the company long enough to earn a sabbatical, but also provides a place for employees to go when they get restless, bored or burnt out with the job. Rather than finding new employment, they just take a break.

Last but certainly not least, offering paid sabbaticals is extremely marketable for recruiting purposes. Candidates are often looking for places they can grow and learn, and paid sabbaticals, especially those with a specific purpose, offer just that. It’s both an incentive for employees and a marketing tool for you.

Does your company offer paid sabbaticals? If so, what have you found to be the pros and cons of them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Categories: Employer Branding
Author:  Jessica Miller-Merrell

Author and workplace technology strategist. @blogging4jobs

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