Article: Sabbatical, a blessing in disguise for organizations

Compensation & Benefits

Sabbatical, a blessing in disguise for organizations

Contemplating whether to send an employee on a sabbatical is worth a shot? Has someone showed interest in taking one?
Sabbatical, a blessing in disguise for organizations

Sabbaticals are on the rise. According to the findings of a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, the percentage of companies that encourage paid and unpaid sabbaticals rose to 17% employers in 2017. The reason for this percentage spike is that people have started to acknowledge its two-fold benefits. The first advantage is experienced by the employees who retire from their role temporarily, reset and come back rejuvenated and the second one by the organization as it gives an opportunity to review their organizational chart by giving aspiring employees a chance to pursue their dreams and ambitions. 

The concept of sabbaticals is quite popular in academia, so it will be wise to mention a study that analyzed the impact a sabbatical had on professors. The researchers surveyed 129 university professors and 129 colleagues of theirs who didn’t go on one. Both groups were surveyed before, during and after a sabbatical. The researchers found that those who took sabbaticals were more relaxed and their stress levels declined. What’s worth noticing, however, is that the positive outcomes of having taken a sabbatical lingered on long after they returned to work.  

The second benefit is more at an organizational level. There was a study wherein researchers surveyed 61 leaders from five non-profit organizations. They were all required to take at least a three-month sabbatical. During this period they were discouraged from coming to office. The researchers found out that the sabbatical takers experienced positive emotions. They returned as better leaders and reported that the time away from work was a huge learning experience them. They felt rejuvenated and were back with fresh, innovative ideas.  A renewed sense of self perhaps? 

The study busts the myth that sabbatical experience is risky and can disturb the status quo. In other words, it supports the idea that “the creative disruption of a well-planned sabbatical can be productive for the entire leadership of an organization.” 

Is there more? Absolutely.  

The researchers found that the leaders who stepped up as interim leaders were quite impressive in their new role. In fact, they continued to act responsibly and were more collaborative with their leaders too upon their return.  In one of the organizations, one of the interim leaders performed so well that they got hired as a deputy director. The research certainly confirms that we don’t need to worry about sending off leaders on sabbaticals. As a matter of fact, these long break should be an opportunity to prepare employees for new possibilities. 

Employers should test the potential of the workforce and make important observations. 

Can the team survive in the absence of their leader? Can they function seamlessly, without hiccups? Or are they doing well and finding new ways of functioning on their own? Is the interim leader responsible and living up to company’s expectation? 

If they fail to function, then it speaks volumes about the hero worship culture in your organization which you must then question and destroy. 

So, would you leverage the benefit of sabbatical leaves? 

Have you taken a sabbatical yet or would like one? 

If you’ve already been on a sabbatical, then do share your experience and its effect on your professional life. 

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Topics: Compensation & Benefits

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