A Basic Description of Sabbatical Leave

By Fawn Farley , last updated May 26, 2011

A sabbatical is typically defined as a break or rest from work in order to recharge professionally and personally. People in many different careers can successfully utilize the sabbatical for research or personal development purposes. If planned appropriately, taking a sabbatical will be a benefit for both the employer and the employee. Here are some tips for how to prepare for and effectively take a sabbatical, as well as more general information on what it means to take sabbatical leave.

Most sabbatical are about two months in length, although this number may vary. Professions most commonly taking sabbaticals are educators, pastors, musicians, and scientists. Although academic sabbaticals are most common, and sometimes even expected every six years of employment, it is possible to take sabbaticals in the corporate world as well. This leave of absence can be either paid or unpaid, depending on the circumstance and the employer.

Are you getting burned out on your job? It may be that all you need is a vacation. A sabbatical differs from a vacation in that you will leave for a longer amount of time, and you will focus on gaining skills or working on personal transformations that will make you a better employee upon your return. This may mean you are using the time to take a class related to your profession. Maybe you will volunteer out of the country, work on writing a book, conduct research in your field, or tackle a personal challenge. Whatever the case, use your time off in a manner that rewards a professional gain.

To approach the subject of taking a sabbatical with your employer, write an outline of your plan. Include the following information: what you intend to do with your time away, what you hope to achieve, and an explanation of how both you and your employer will gain from your sabbatical. Your sabbatical should leave you refreshed and full of new ideas and your employers will need to know how you will accomplish this. Your outline should include how you tend to handle your responsibilities at work before you go. This may include meeting with clients or finding coworkers to take care of certain tasks for you.

Prepare for the potential consequences of taking a sabbatical. With proper planning, these should all be positive! The worst thing that might happen is that your employer realizes they don't need you to return. Oppositely, your time away may make you realize that you don't want to return to your work, and that you interested in pursuing other avenues of employment. Be prepared for the financial burdens of a sabbatical by planning your budget in advance, especially if your leave will not be paid. Additionally, consider the consequences of time away from friends and family. An extended sabbatical may not be ideal for people with children.

In general, a sabbatical should be a planned use of time away from work to gain both professional and personal skills that will be of benefit to both the employer and employee. The idea is for the employee to return to work renewed and ready to bring new insight to the workplace.

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