3 key sabbatical benefits and 7 reasons for taking one

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 November 2022

Published 5 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Taking a sabbatical might be a suitable option for you if you want to devote more time to improve a skill, begin a side enterprise or participate in meaningful relaxation. Sometimes, it can be challenging for ambitious, career-driven people that are typically used to working long hours to take time away from work to reflect on things. Despite this, taking a sabbatical can be very beneficial for your health and career. In this article, we explain what a sabbatical is, outline three sabbatical benefits, explain how long a sabbatical usually is and list seven reasons for taking one.

What is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical refers to a lengthy leave of absence from employment that individuals take so they can travel, complete a goal or fulfil a different ambition. Those in higher education and governmental occupations, such as academics and scientists, are most likely to take sabbaticals.

As part of their work benefits, these professionals can take a paid sabbatical. Another option that's available to full-time employees includes the provision of paid sabbatical breaks by other organisations. The length of a sabbatical can vary, depending on the circumstances and the employer's generosity. When employees take a sabbatical, they typically gain a variety of advantages for themselves and their employers.

Related: How to write a leave request email (with examples)

3 key sabbatical benefits

There are many sabbatical benefits that employees and employers can gain. A sabbatical provides individuals with the opportunity to focus on personal objectives and goals. Other benefits of taking a sabbatical include being able to concentrate better at work, travelling more and rediscovering old passions. Making full use of a sabbatical can also help you to gain a new perspective on life and refocus on your professional goals. Below are three key benefits of taking a sabbatical in more detail:

1. Increases employee appreciation

After a while, the daily efforts of work can wear down many employees. Taking a longer break frequently can help you to rejuvenate and refresh your outlook on work when you return. It also helps you to become more appreciative of your daily schedule and employer.

2. Improves overall health

It's also common for people to take a sabbatical so they can improve their mental or physical well-being. The importance of maintaining a good work-life balance and avoiding job burnout is essential for maintaining optimal health. While on a sabbatical, people learn to put their own health before everything else. During your sabbatical, you can consider taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle and obtaining any medical or mental health treatment you may require to make the most of your time away from work.

3. Gives you the chance to reflect

If your work life easily absorbs you to the detriment of your wellness, family, friendships and leisure activities, then taking time away from work can give you the space you require to reset your view on things and reflect on improving your work-life balance. This enables you to focus on what's really important to you in both your professional and personal life.

It's also possible for you to continue this way of thinking for when your sabbatical ends and you return to the office, which can help you to maintain a far better work-life balance in the future. This can result in you working more productively in your current role.

Related: How to write a holiday request email (with examples)

How long is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical is an extended period of absence that typically lasts between two months and a year. They tend to last for longer than your annual holiday entitlement and are frequently unpaid. A common amount of time for an unpaid sabbatical is six months, although this can vary depending on the employer.

The length of a sabbatical is often dictated by the role you're working in. For instance, if you're working as a university lecturer, you may be able to take a sabbatical that lasts for an entire academic year. Alternatively, you may work for an organisation that offers its employees the option of taking a fixed period of sabbatical leave after completing several years of service. If you're interested in taking advantage of sabbatical leave at some point in your career, you may want to consider pursuing a position or role that provides prospects for this kind of leave.

7 reasons for taking a sabbatical

An employment contract may determine the type of sabbatical that an employee can take. If your employment contract doesn't outline the situations when you can take a sabbatical, you can choose when to take a sabbatical depending on your own interests. For instance, you may decide to take a sabbatical to travel, learn a new language or develop a new skill. Below are seven reasons why you may decide to take a sabbatical:

1. Travel more

Learning about diverse cultures when travelling to new countries is a great educational opportunity that can help you to become a better team member when you return to your workplace. It can help to improve your creativity, confidence, communication skills and cognitive abilities. In addition, travelling can help you to rejuvenate and de-stress by temporarily relieving you of your professional and personal responsibilities.

Related: 17 Jobs That Involve Travel

2. Offer your services for free

Another good way of utilising your free time when you take a sabbatical is to offer your services for free to contribute to a good cause. For instance, you may decide to take a sabbatical to mentor young people. This can expand your existing skills while also providing you with a sense of accomplishment that comes from contributing to a worthwhile cause.

Related: 12 Social, Professional and Personal Benefits of Volunteering

3. Make time to work on enjoyable and productive personal projects

Taking time off also allows you to devote your time to a variety of creative endeavours that you wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to pursue. For instance, you may decide to take a sabbatical to write a book or memoir, take up drawing or painting, learn carpentry or improve your quilting or sewing skills. Alternatively, you may want to set up a podcast or blog to discuss your creative interests with others. By focusing on your interests outside of work, it's possible to offer a fresh perspective to your present role when you return from your sabbatical.

Related: How To Prepare for a Career Break (With Tips and Guidance)

4. Take the time to relax in a productive way

A sabbatical is also an excellent opportunity to relax and establish healthy habits that you can continue when you return to your job after some time off. Having the time to get enough rest everyday is good for the body and the mind. Additionally, taking time off provides you with an opportunity to slow down, cook nutritious meals and develop relaxation practices that can continue to benefit you after your sabbatical ends.

5. Choose a different career

An extended sabbatical can also be beneficial if you're thinking of changing careers. To improve your chances of being able to change careers, it's a good idea to use this time off to acquire new skills and knowledge. You may decide to do this by earning a certification or continuing your education.

Related: I Don't Know What Career I Want: How To Choose The Right Job

6. Start a business

Taking a sabbatical can also be the ideal time to launch a new business. It's possible to examine if there's a demand for your new business concept while still maintaining the security of your regular job while on a paid sabbatical. If your own business is in a comparable field to your employer's, it's essential that you check to see if there are any non-compete provisions in your employment contract to ensure that you're not breaking any terms within it.

The most time-consuming aspect of working for yourself is when you first start to develop a business. While on sabbatical, you can invest enough time to develop your new business so that you can run it in your free time when you return to work. Then, if your new business is successful, you can consider leaving your regular job to focus on the business full-time.

Related: 15 questions to ask an entrepreneur on starting a business

7. Consider the meaning of your life and the impact you aspire to make

Reflecting on your life and what you believe its purpose is can be another reason to take a sabbatical. During this time, you can use your extended leave to engage in self-reflection and self-assessment, which can help you to live a more fulfilling and happier life.

To do this, examine your priorities and interests, then determine whether these driving factors are compatible with your professional and personal goals. You may find that taking time away from your usual employment confirms that you want to change some aspects of your life either professionally or personally. The reason for this is that a sabbatical may highlight certain aspects of your life that you aspire to improve or modify, which may involve taking on a passion project, finding a new job or improving your overall health.

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