The sabbatical – fresh perspectives for long-term employees

Recruitment Strategies
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Work isn’t everything. But we spend most of our lives doing it. Sometimes people just need to take a break.

Normally annual leave consists of a two-week holiday at the most. While they can be great for recharging, it might not be long enough for a ‘hard reset’, where employees can fully unwind and reflect on their lives.

That’s where the sabbatical comes in. This longer period away from work, agreed with an employer, can be used for anything – from travelling overseas to voluntary work helping a community.

Using sabbaticals as a recruiting tool

Sabbaticals can be a major attraction for job seekers, as it’s a sign that the company in question will care about their needs and wellbeing. It’s also a powerful motivator for an employee to stay at a company in the long term.

Adobe, for instance, doesn’t just use sabbaticals as a reward, but as a tool to aid their recruiting efforts and public relations – employees are encouraged to use these breaks to do volunteering work, and help communities, with the company telling these stories through their marketing channels.

Other benefits companies receive through sabbaticals include:

  • Employee rejuvenation and the feeling they are in a new job. After working the same job for a long time, it’s inevitable that an employee may feel burnout. A break will allow them to take some time out and come back fully refreshed.
  • Employee inspiration. Fresh eyes and fresh perspectives allow them to find new ways to help and grow the business when they come back. Sometimes people need to step away from the day-to-day to understand what the business needs from an external viewpoint.
  • An opportunity to focus on personal development. Sometimes in the hustle of day-to-day life, employees don’t have the opportunity to focus on themselves – whether they’re looking to learn a language or undergo a physical fitness transformation.
  • Responsibilities for less experienced employees. This can shake things up for the better – it’s an opportunity for people to explore a new position, while the company can gain insight into their capabilities.

Why do some employers choose not to offer sabbaticals?

It’s difficult to measure return on investment for a sabbatical programme, as it’s hard to tell whether an employee is more productive on their return. Also, in the age of the gig economy, it’s becoming rarer for younger people to stay at companies long enough to make sabbaticals even an option.

But If you have designs on keeping employees in the long term, sabbaticals are a great carrot on a stick to have. They are common in high-tech companies where work is so fast-paced, there’s a danger of burnout.

Tips on making the most of sabbatical programmes

  • Remember you’ll need to replace individual’s duties for a prolonged absence. Put in place ways to cover the employee’s workload – such as splitting up responsibilities between other team members.
  • Employees must be left alone. It’s not a complete recharge if they are constantly hounded by emails, texts, and phone calls. Even if they’re getting paid, they’re not there to work flexibly – leave them to focus on rejuvenation, so you get an even better employee coming back.
  • Make sure that employees make the most of sabbatical programmes. Beyond having time away from work, sabbaticals can be transformative and eye-opening experiences if they are planned properly, with goals outlined beforehand.
  • Think about asking people on sabbatical to come up with a report on what they did. This will mean employees have a push to do something meaningful, and outside of their comfort zone.

Competition for the best talent is very competitive, with companies often contending against each other in the same talent pool.

The sabbatical is a tool which can attract prospective employees, retain valuable talent, create employee loyalty and engagement, and energise the workforce. It’s a simple initiative to improve work-life balance, and one that both existing and potential employees will thank you for.

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