How a Sabbatical May Help

I was reading an article on NPR the other day that looked at the unusual way Sweden is encouraging entrepreneurship among its citizens. The upshot of the article is that workers are legally allowed to take up to six months of unpaid leave from their jobs so they can create their own companies. The employee promises to create a company that does not compete directly with his current employer and the employer promises to keep the employee’s job open for six months.

While America is certainly very far away from an idea like this, there is something else that has started to become more common, the sabbatical. Much like Sweden’s plan, the sabbatical is unpaid time off from your job. It’s not government mandated, but many companies have determined it’s the best way to hold on to high-quality workers. In fact, a few years ago, Inc. Magazine took a look at some of the top companies to offer a sabbatical to employees including the likes of The Cheesecake Factory, Intel, and Zillow.

The sabbatical gives an employee the chance to recharge his batteries. It gives her the chance to explore the world now that she has the means to do it. It’s an opportunity to find yourself and there’s nothing that says you cannot use the sabbatical to find out if you’re truly happy in your new job or would be happier running your own business.

The real problem is trying to figure out how to broach the idea of a sabbatical with your employer. So here are a few tips.


What’s the Benefit?

We know what the benefit of a sabbatical is to you, but what’s the benefit to your employer? Your company is giving you time off because it believes you will return ready to work better and harder. You need to be fair to your employer while you’re exploring new opportunities.

What will you learn during this time off? What qualities will you bring back that will make you a better employee? What is your plan? Employers don’t want to give you weeks or months of vacation, they want to give you time off that truly helps.

It may turn out that you never return from your time off, but it may also turn out that you do. If you do return, what are you bringing back with you that’s going to make the company better?


Show Your Worth

An employee who shows up late to work frequently or fails to meet deadlines isn’t really worth keeping. An employee that’s reliable, consistent and produces quality work is definitely worth keeping.

Show your employer that you are the kind of employee that she wants to keep around. Let her know why she’s better off keeping you happy than hunting for someone else. Good employees are hard to find, so when employers have them, they’re more flexible.


Find the Right Time

Don’t ask for a sabbatical in the middle of a big project or when there’s a deadline a month away. Work out a time that’s beneficial to both you and your employer. Talk to your employer and work with him to make sure the sabbatical works into his schedule. Leaving him in the lurch is never a good way to entice him to give you a long time off.


Consider a Modified Sabbatical

A sabbatical does not mean that you have to leave your job entirely. Maybe it means that you work part-time. Maybe it means that you work remotely for six months. There are many ways to work more time off into your schedule that your employer may be open to. What you need is time to explore your options. If working part-time instead of full-time does that, then go for it!

Whether you decide to become a full-time entrepreneur, work a side hustle, or just enjoy the career that you have, a sabbatical will at the very least help you shape your idea of what you want to do.

The only thing worse than failing is not trying.

Written by Erika Towne