By Kayla Matthews
Asking the boss for time off can be tricky. Unless you’re one of the lucky minority who hasn’t spent most of their life reporting to a 9-to-5 type job, you’ve probably tried a few different methods to get some “me time.” You might request a day off ahead of time, or you could take a not-so-sick day.
What if you need more than a day or two, though? What if you need more than a few weeks? You might be surprised at how willing many employers are to allow someone to take a sabbatical leave. Although you will miss work, there are substantial benefits to taking a sabbatical. Here’s why it’s a good idea to give yourself the green light for some time away, and why your employer should, too.
What is a Sabbatical Leave from Work?
The word sabbatical goes back to biblical texts, which refer to farmers allowing their fields to go fallow once every seven years. This ancient idea has, like so many, been modernized. It has taken on a different meaning than it had when a sabbatical was just an opium pipe short of a mystical vision quest.
Not long ago, you really could disconnect by staying out of the office for a little while. These days, things are more complicated. We have smartphones.
Our ever-shrinking sphere of private life has become the motivator for many people to take what we think of as a sabbatical leave in the modern era. In general, it’s six or more weeks of leave that may not be paid, with the intent of fulfilling some life goal or pursuing a great understanding of self. You might consider it an active pursuit of purpose, which can easily become lost in the chaos of the modern workplace.
The Things You’ll Bring Back
Millennials are often over-categorized and talked about prescriptively. Employers obsess over advice the media or their social circle gives about how this new generation values experiences over things — as if that was such a new concept. The value of life experience has never been in question — just consider what you put on your resume. Is work experience not life experience in another form?
You don’t have to have been born after 1986 to get value from a sabbatical. Not every employer is going to see it your way, but if you and your company share the same values, it’s easy to make the connection between the importance of getting some out-of-work time to experience life and performing when you’re in the office.
For many people who take breaks, their trip is a way to purge the mind of noise and cruft that accumulate in the modern workplace. A sabbatical from work eliminates the symptoms of burnout and anxiety that are so widely experienced in our 24/7-connected reality.
Even if you don’t come back with authentic trinkets from a faraway land, you’ll return to the job with a clear head and a renewed vigor for what you do. Taking some time to remind yourself of your purpose and goals will make you a more effective asset for the business, and could even lead you to take the next step forward in your career, within or outside of your current company.
Making the Pitch
Of course, you can’t just get up and leave one day. Proposing to your employer that you want to take a significant amount of time off is difficult. What if they don’t see it your way? Will you still be looked at as a loyal employee after you suggest this?
These are real risks, and ones you should weigh. However, if your sabbatical plans don’t align with your employer’s values, that might be a red flag. A good idea is to organize your reasons for going and present them in an articulate way. Draw parallels for your employer to see where a refreshed version of you will bring new wins to the company and how your time off can inform your further development. Remember, you are a valuable asset. The business wants to send a positive message to its employees in how they treat your request.
You might be surprised at how many employers are willing to endorse a well-planned sabbatical. If you believe this is what’s needed to take your life and your career further, start taking those steps today.
About the Author: Kayla Matthews writes about communication and workplace productivity on her blog, Productivity Theory. Her work has also appeared on Talent Culture, MakeUseOf, The Muse and Fast Company.