Friday, November 27, 2009

A Call For Sabbaticals

The idea of a sabbatical – time away from work – to do some research, learn a new skill, or pursue a personal passion, may seem far-fetched. But the truth is that if you do the same work for a long period of time, whether that’s twenty years, thirty years, or even just five or ten, you will hit a wall where you start to experience lack of creativity, and burnout.

When I was younger, the women in the office used to joke that the only accepted way to take time off from work was to have a baby. But let’s be honest, taking a sleep-deprived leave of absence to stay home with a baby isn’t exactly a break. Later in my career, the only accepted way to take time off from work was due to long-term illness, and we’re not wishing that on anyone.

And yet the drive to constantly meet the bottom line, increase profitability, and please Wall Street can just sap all the energy right out of you.

If you want to be inspired, check out this TED talk by Stefan Sagmeister, on the Power of Time Off. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole talk, just listen to the first three minutes, or read the interview with Stefan in Print Magazine.

Feeling creative yet?

While traditional sabbaticals have their roots in the academic world, I was surprised to find that there are a number of Fortune 100 companies that offer paid sabbaticals as a benefit to their employees. But there’s too few of them on this list.

What’s in for the company? As this Business Week article notes, companies that offer sabbaticals view them as tool for recruiting and retention, and see increased loyalty as a result.

Have you taken a sabbatical? Let’s dream a little – if you could take a sabbatical what would you do with the time?


Anonymous said...

After 26 years doing very well, I took a leave of absence as a sabatical and got laid off when trying to return. Bad timing and bad luck. So much for a once in a lifetime opportunity to get away. Now it's too extended.

Colette said...

Anon -- do you think taking the leave contributed to the lay off? That's a tough break....

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I'd love a sabbatical, but my employer would never allow me to go on one and if I did, they'd never let me return. Big blue is not particularly enlightened.

At my age (55+), I'd probably never get another job in the IT business.

What I'd do with a sabbatical is a) take time to rest, b) take time to do an exercise program to build my stamina and c) research opportunities and prepare for my post-blue employment.

Colette said...

I really do wish companies like 'Big Blue' would allow this option. Everyone needs a break, time to revitalize or get a second wind.

Anonymous said...

Do you know if European companies on average offer more sabbaticals?

Colette said...

Anon, that's a good question. I haven't seen anything that suggests that European companies offer more sabbaticals, but I do know that in certain parts of Europe, they have more vacation time, and those vacations are 'true' vacations, essentially giving them a real break and time to rejuvenate.