Northwestern Mutual: Over the past two years, employee burnout has become a major concern for many companies. In response, some employers are reframing leave policies to accommodate career breaks called sabbaticals. Unlike vacation time, sabbaticals can be months long and may be paid or unpaid depending on the company. Employees take sabbaticals for many reasons ranging from avoiding burnout to simply wanting to pursue passion projects.
For anyone considering a sabbatical, here are four factors to meditate on:
What is the organization's sabbatical policy?
Before making decisions about sabbaticals, employees will want to find out what their company's stance on long breaks is. Some companies and institutions offer a sabbatical after a certain number of years and are usually transparent about the leave policy. Employees who are unsure may want to check with human resources and browse the employee handbook or leave policy document, especially any information pertaining to "career breaks," "sabbaticals" or "long-term leave."
Employees will also want to find out whether their company offers fully or partially paid sabbaticals. Depending on the answer, this can mean significantly altered financial circumstances.
Does the team have a replacement on hand?
Before talking to their manager about taking time off, employees should do a quick evaluation of their team and tasks. Is there someone on the team who will be able to take over the workload? Will a replacement need to be hired? Will a temporary departure leave the team short-staffed? These are the factors management will need to contend with before approving a sabbatical. Since an extended break can be planned well in advance, it makes sense for anyone considering leave to lay the groundwork by ensuring that team members are prepared appropriately beforehand.
What about insurance coverage?
A sabbatical may affect the insurance benefits that employees receive from their employers. In many cases, employees on sabbatical can retain coverage as long as they continue to pay their portion of the premium. Individuals with a lapse in coverage will likely want to arrange for health coverage as well as other benefits like life insurance. Employees looking for permanent coverage may want to take the opportunity to consider universal life insurance or whole life insurance, depending on their needs.
What is the purpose of the sabbatical?
At first, the answer seems obvious — rest and relaxation are the goals. But since sabbaticals can be long, it's important to have a game plan for this period of life. Some people decide to travel or do volunteer work. Others may simply want to spend time with family or may handle caregiving responsibilities. Employees may consider using some of their time to upskill. Management may be more interested in individuals who use their time to improve their utility to the company. Industry experts sometimes use sabbaticals to write books while early to mid-career professionals may take up a diploma or certificate course. This doesn't mean that a company will only approve sabbaticals that benefit the organization, but it does help employees demonstrate a commitment to the organization as well as to their personal development.
At the end of the day, a sabbatical can help employees recharge and rediscover their passion for the job. But like any other major career decision, it requires careful thought and planning. It can be a good idea to start preparing — financially and professionally — for a sabbatical about three to six months in advance. This can ensure peace of mind that work continues smoothly in the employee's absence. It can also allow the employee to return to work reinvigorated, and to a well-functioning team.
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Original Source: Northwestern Mutual: What to Think About When Taking a Sabbatical