What is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical gives you paid (or a combination of paid and unpaid) time off from work. A sabbatical leave can last anywhere from a few weeks, to several months, to up to a year. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Many forward-looking companies are offering loyalty-boosting, burnout-thwarting breaks to their employees.

Intrigued? Here’s how to find out if a sabbatical is right for you and how to take full advantage.

1. Find out if your company offers sabbaticals and what’s required to get one

Firstly, find out if sabbaticals are already a part of your employee benefits package. If that’s the case, then it’s time to look into the small print. Start by getting answers to these questions: 

  • Are sabbaticals available only after a certain number of years of employment? Or on certain anniversary markers, like 5 or 10 years of service?
  • Is taking a sabbatical merely a matter of putting in a request for the time off? Or is the process more complicated? 
  • Does your company need to know why you’re requesting a sabbatical? 
  • Will you need to provide a doctor’s note? 

2. Know why you’re taking the sabbatical (because your employer may ask)

A sabbatical may feel like an extended vacation. But it’s also an opportunity to take the time to think deeply about the next steps in your life and career. 

Ask yourself, “Are you where you want to be?” If so, what are the next goals you’d like to reach? If not, how can you revamp your situation to align with your needs, wants and values? 

Plus, taking an extended period of time to really focus on your mental health can have multiple benefits. Here’s a few to keep in mind. 

  • You get paid time off to relax and switch off 100% from everyday work concerns. That reduction of stress can immediately help your physical health. 
  • Your cortisol or stress levels can drop. This can help you reduce fatigue and sleep better. 
  • You may see an increase in creativity. 
  • Your mental, physical, and emotional revitalization can help make you a better employee when you return.

3. Have some structure (but not too much!)

Your sabbatical is the perfect time to try new things that will support your self-care. Make a list of things you would like to experience. Your list might have long-held dreams or spontaneous ideas like:

  • Traveling (if that is possible where you live right now), 
  • trying new hobbies, 
  • investing in therapy, 
  • penciling in time to meditate or 
  • working on a book. 

By creating some structure around your sabbatical, you can use the time in a way that helps you avoid frittering away this valuable break.

It’s also the time to examine what you want out of your professional life. Do you want to switch careers? Go part-time? Quit? You may eventually choose to maintain the status quo. A sabbatical can be a period of self-discovery about what works for you in all areas of your life.

4. Find out how to manage your sabbatical

Once your sabbatical is approved, it’s time to plan the hand-off and on-boarding. Create a plan with your manager and team for before and after your sabbatical. This way, everyone can transition as easily as possible.

5. Remember what a sabbatical is all about

Don’t disconnect entirely, but don’t slip into the trap of being too connected. Discuss with your manager and team the best way to contact you. Be sure to include days and times, so they’ll be confident that they can contact you if needed. But there can also be very real boundaries.

On your end, you may have a tough time letting go as well. It’s important to remind yourself that you’re taking this time off to work towards becoming a better, healthier you. And that’s something both you and your company can celebrate. 

What if you can’t take a sabbatical from work?

Let's say your company or employer doesn't offer sabbaticals. What can you do? Start by politely asking HR about potential ways to use current offerings to achieve the same goal. 

There’s also plenty of material that proves the physical, mental, and productivity benefits of sabbaticals. Who knows? By bringing up the topic, you may plant a seed that revolutionizes your own company’s approach to work and time off.

Looking for mental health resources to use during your sabbatical? 

If you want to use your sabbatical to take charge of your health, check out Lumino Health. You’ll find:

  • local and virtual health-care providers, 
  • relevant health and 
  • wellness content and the latest health innovations. 

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