Taking a sabbatical without jeopardising your careerVincent Tan
A career sabbatical is essentially an extended form of leave, usually unpaid which usually ranges from between three months to even one year. People often take a sabbatical for a few reasons, most often to have extended travel plans, for medical reasons, or simply just to take a break to avoid a burn-out. According to a study published in the U.S. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, researchers have found that those who took sabbaticals experienced, upon return, a decline in stress and an increase in psychological resources and overall well-being. As for the organisation, a study by Deborah Linnell of TSNE found that the majority of leaders surveyed said the time away allowed them the space to generate new ideas for innovating in the organization and helped them gain greater confidence in themselves as leaders. They also reported a better ability to collaborate with their board of directors, most likely because the planning and execution of the sabbatical provided a learning experience for everyone involved. Taking sabbatical leaves is beneficial and here’s how to do it without jeopardising and derailing your career:
Study the human resource sabbatical policy, if any
The first thing you should do is to study the human resource policies your company has on taking sabbatical leaves. Be sure that you are entitled and is eligible for it. Also, look into the duration you are allowed to take and the conditions that are imposed on this privilege. If in doubt, always requests for a meeting with the human resource personnel and also seek your department’s advice on utilising this privilege.
Study the impact of taking a sabbatical leave
Go through your duties and tasks and most importantly, the role you play within the team or department. Think through who else can replace what you do and the impact that will stem from your prolonged absence. For example, if you have a capable colleague who can take on your role, then perhaps it could be business as usual without you. Otherwise, think about the issues that could arise with your absence. This would actually be a good chance for you to think about your role and importance within the organisation.
Run through this idea with your bosses and colleagues
Because your extended absence will inadvertently cause some disruption to how things are normally run in the business, be sure to discuss with your bosses and colleagues (separately of course) on your idea of going on a sabbatical leave. The last thing you want happening is your absence causing the business to suffer adversely. Be prepared however for the possibility that your boss disapproves your intention to go on a sabbatical leave.
Upskill or sharpen your skillsets during your time away
A lot of things can change between three months to a year. Be sure to learn a new skill or sharpen your existing skills during your time away. In this fast pace world, systems and processes change often. The last thing you want happening is to come back to work after a year and find that you are redundant and that your skillsets are no longer required.
Taking sabbaticals can either be for your own personal wellbeing or it can be a time for reflection if you intend to continue working in the same company or industry or if you are looking for a career change. Regardless of the reasons, proper planning and consideration must be taken before you embark on this big step. Be sure to cover all your bases such as finances, job security, insurance, expenses, commitments and contingencies.