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What is a Sabbatical

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Take a Break Without Quitting Your Job

A sabbatical is a break from work, typically lasting several weeks and up to a year. The word is derived from “Sabbath,” and it literally means “to rest.” At one time, sabbaticals were considered only for clergy and educators. In today’s world, people in all kinds of careers recognize the value of taking time away from their jobs to recharge. Fortunately, an increasing number of employers agree.

Why Take a Sabbatical?

There’s an old saying: “A change is as good as a rest.” If you’re starting to experience burnout in your current job, working at something else can be as restorative as a beach vacation. You can get energized by learning a new skill, dedicating yourself to a special project, or engaging in volunteer work. Taking a break reduces stress. Many people find they go back to work with new perspectives and ideas.

Can I Return to My Current Job?

Discuss your plans for a sabbatical with your employer. Establish in writing the terms of your leave of absence, including how long you’ll be gone and what is to happen upon your return. Rather than complaining of burnout, point out the ways your sabbatical will benefit your employer. You may want to talk about the new skills you'll acquire or new business connections you'll make. If it's an unpaid sabbatical, highlight the money the employer will save while you take time away.

Will I Get Paid for My Sabbatical?

That’s up to your employer. Most organizations that allow sabbaticals do so by putting an employee on unpaid or part-time status. A growing number of companies offer full-time pay to individuals meeting certain criteria, such as length of service.

How to Prepare for a Sabbatical

Dan Clements, author of Escape 101: Sabbaticals Made Simple, suggests taking these steps:

  • Make the commitment to your sabbatical and mark it on all your calendars. Tell a few people who can help you plan and who will hold you to your commitment. 
  • Save as much money as possible. An automatic savings plan can help by deducting the money from your paycheck before you even see it. Trim expenses from your budget. Remind yourself often why you’re saving. It’s easy to forgo a meal out or a cute pair of shoes when you think about enjoying your time off from your job. 
  • Assess your employment situation. If you want to return to your current job, give your boss ample notice. Update your resume before leaving, since you might not remember what you did if you’re off for an extended period of time.

If You Decide Against Returning to Your Current Position

Some individuals find that a sabbatical opens up new opportunities. You might decide to relocate. Perhaps you’ll go back to school or switch careers. While it's easy to get swept up in the excitement of a major life change, remember that a big move takes planning. It’s best to keep your current job until you embark on something new. You should also make sure you have enough money to see you comfortably through the transition.