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Work Sabbatical: Taking a Break from the Job

Work Sabbatical: Taking a Break from the Job

Have you ever wanted to hit the “pause” button at work – getting away for longer than your allotted vacation time allows? University professors have traditionally taken sabbaticals to recharge and refresh, and now more and more American workers are doing the same.

[Related: The Untold Value Of A Professional Sabbatical]

Many employers, including MeetUp, McDonalds, Patagonia and Morningstar, to name a few, offer sabbaticals – allowing their employees the opportunity to parlay years of tenure into periodic paid time off in addition to their regular vacation time.

In an INC Magazine article, MeetUp CFO, Brendan McGovern, described sabbaticals as an effective method for retaining the best people. “The way most folks get a nice long break from work is to leave their job and then scratch their itch and find a new job. It was [our CEO’s idea] to give people a break and something new without losing them for good.”

Jeannie Bernier, a senior manager with Morningstar in Chicago, has been with the financial research firm for eighteen years and has taken four sabbaticals to date. “We’re given six weeks, in addition to our vacation time, every four years,” Bernier explains. “It’s good for body, mind and spirit, and work-life balance in general, to have an extended period of time to truly disconnect and recharge. I’ve used the time to travel as well as to take care of home improvement projects. When the sabbatical is over, I’m refreshed and so ready to get back to work.”

Bernier says it’s also inspiring to hear how workmates use their time away. “Colleagues do everything from hiking the Appalachian Trail to trips around the world to building houses in South America,” Bernier explains. “Everybody comes back all blissed out and reinvigorated with great stories to tell.”

Employees around the globe are negotiating unpaid sabbaticals as well – building up savings and taking leave from their jobs for extended periods of time. Some workers are even choosing to leave their jobs all together for a kind of “grown-up gap year.” If you’re inspired to stop the “work-world train” and hop off for an extended period, check out travel writer Natalie Jesionka’s three-part series for The Muse where she provides helpful tips and guidelines.

Sabbaticals are a great antidote to career burn-out – allowing time to reflect, recharge and self-assess while taking a much-needed ‘breather.’ If you’re not familiar with your workplace’s stance on sabbaticals, talk to your HR representative. Sabbaticals are an opportunity for self-care as well as adventure, and are a valuable perk for a job well done!

[Related: Time Off Helps You Thrive in Life and Career]


Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is also the Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association. She hosts and produces an online show called Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life- on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.


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