Long working hours are taking a toll on employees’ mental health. As more employees realize the importance of taking care of their wellbeing, slowing down and taking a break from work is a good practice to prevent burnout. For this purpose, some companies have a sabbatical leave policy, which lets employees take long weeks or months away from the office without having to leave for good. Sounds interesting to you? Well, it is duly noted that just because some people are doing it, it does not mean you can stroll into your manager’s office and notify him you are going to take a full month of sabbatical next week. Make an impulsive action and you may return to the office at the end of your sabbatical leave to find someone new sitting at your desk.
So, how to tell that you need a sabbatical leave? Here are some factors to consider.
COVID-19 and Sabbatical
The extended lockdown during heightening Covid-19 cases has resulted in isolation and even depression among employees. This, along with job-related stress, has accumulated and harmed workers’ cognitive performance. Taking a sabbatical break can be a great way to reverse any cognitive loss caused by the COVID19 pandemic. And yet, despite it being able to prevent prolonged burnout, you need to take some factors into account before applying for a sabbatical leave.
Are You Eligible?
First thing first, not all organizations have a sabbatical leave policy, so you need to check this with your HR manager. If your workplace has one in place, it usually comes with several requirements. Generally, you should have worked at your current company for at least 3-4 years before becoming eligible for a sabbatical leave.
The better you are at your job, the more likely your employer is going to have no choice but to agree with your leave request. This means that the more irreplaceable you are, the more you can get away with. If your company has a sabbatical leave perk and you are an exceptional employee who has worked for a couple of years, you have a good chance of getting your request approved.
Don’t Even Think About It If…
If you are a relatively new employee and are still learning the ropes, asking for a sabbatical is going to indicate to your employer that you are not committed to your job. It also means you will need to relearn some things when you get back, which wastes time and resources. Even if by surprise your request for a sabbatical leave is approved, there are chances that your employer is going to look for someone new while you are away.
How long should your sabbatical be?
On average, durations of 1 to 3 months do not come as a shock to managers. If your company is already saying yes to your request, you should have no issue obtaining approval for that amount of time. If the employer regards you favorably and you have been working well, you should be able to acquire longer terms of 3 to 6 months. However, this is a very rare case unless you are in a senior position. Anything more than six months is pushing it because the employer must maintain your position while keeping the business running smoothly until you return.
What to Prepare?
The key is not to do it so suddenly. Make sure you ask your manager ahead of time, since leaving at the last minute would leave your coworkers in the dark, increasing your chances of not having a job to return to. Speak with your manager about your desired sabbatical at least 3 to 6 months in advance. If you have plans, such as pursuing studies or a volunteer trip, inform your supervisor about it since offering a “valid” excuse (even if the actual reason is that you need to sleep longer) will reflect far less negatively on you. Don’t be afraid to speak out if you’re taking a break to try for a baby or for health reasons. Almost any reason is preferable to one, as long as you are honest about it.
Most importantly, you need to have a strategy before going to your manager’s office and tendering the request. Here is the information you need to tell your manager:
Can You Afford Sabbatical?
The truth is that not everyone can afford a sabbatical leave. You will not be compensated for your leave days, and your bonus will be prorated. This way, you must determine if you can really afford it. If you don’t have any other sources of income, you will need to save up a lump sum equal to your costs for the whole period you are away from work. This covers not only your typical living cost, such as bills and food but also the cost of any leisure activities, such as holidays or studies. If you have other sources of income such as income from investments or freelance work and are able to cover your basic cost of living, this should not worry you too much. Try not to fund your whole sabbatical period from your emergency money, since a sabbatical is not really an urgent matter. If you still have a debt or installment to pay monthly, you must make sure that you can continue to do so.
If you can afford it and have been working hard for some time, then going on sabbatical can be a great idea. Being stuck in a tiny cubicle every day for years can really make you lose perspective, especially if you work long hours and do not have time for much else. The trick is to do so in a way that’s financially sustainable, which means finding ways to avoid digging into your savings.