5 Steps to Asking Your Boss For a Sabbatical

Asking for a sabbatical from your company can be intimidating and stressful for anybody. But there does come a time in many employees' service when a vacation or a long weekend simply does not suffice. While sabbaticals are rare in most companies in the US, there is a growing trend to taking off extended time to recharge, destress and return to work fresh. 

Research has proven that a sabbatical can have profound effects on not only the person taking the time off, but the company and department that they are a part of. Many still see sabbaticals as a privilege, but professionals are stating that taking a sabbatical should be a right for all employees at some point in their careers by outlining the benefits. People use sabbaticals to take a long trip, learn a new skill, start a family or even use the time as personal reflection. For the company, researchers have stated that the benefits lie in increased productivity upon return, employee retainment and satisfaction as well as a possibility of an up-skilled worker. 

Burnout is a lingering threat in every single organisation world-wide and it has dire effects on the bottom line of the company. However, many companies simply push back when it comes to sabbaticals and deny the employees the right to a break. So, if you are wanting to take some time off from your job to regroup and refocus yourself, what are the steps you should take? We took a look at how you should go about planning out and asking your company for that much needed time off. 

Know When To Ask 

It is important to know when the right time would be to ask for a period of leave that won’t simply derail your career. Your length of service will also be a huge factor in the decision. If you have been with the company for under seven years and have not reached management level, a sabbatical is simply not going to happen for you. In fact, you won’t be putting yourself in the best light with your employers if you request a sabbatical a few years into your service. 

It is also important to know what state the company is in financially and how the economy is doing. If the company is really battling and there is a general recession globally, it possibly isn’t the best time to make the request. You could find yourself losing your job completely. 

Work Out The Details Before Going In

Will it be paid, or partly-paid leave that you are requesting? How long will the sabbatical be? Will it be the traditional year, or will it be shorter? What will you be doing during the sabbatical? Will you be simply refreshing and refocusing your energies, or will you be up-skilling yourself for your current job? Or, will you be pursuing a new career? If your time off is going to be positively impacting your company, you will need to highlight this in the proposition. It could help the decision swing positively in your favour. 

Companies like Deloitte actually encourage employees to take a few months off at some point during their careers. They offer up to 40% of their salaries, however, limit the time to a few months with a condition that the employee uses the time for personal self development. They also offer alternatives to employees. They can choose five week unpaid leave at any time, or three months paid for self development at a planned point. You will need to be prepared for some of your terms not being met, so come prepared to negotiate and accept alternatives. 

Know The In’s and Out’s of Your Company 

The next step is to do your homework. Check your contract carefully about leave, sabbaticals and extended periods of time off. Check the clauses around redundancy and lay-offs to make sure that there is nothing that could counterfavour your request. Do a deep-dive into the company's policies. Most larger organisations and educational institutions have set policies on this which you can research. 

It is only then that you can have a conversation with HR. Discuss your intentions with them and collect as much information from them. It is helpful to communicate with HR as well as your direct superior a few months before to let them know what you are wanting to achieve. If you surprise the information on them, you could stand a higher chance of being rejected. 

Present Facts and Figures

The best way to approach requesting a sabbatical is by approaching it like you would a sales pitch or a proposition for a new client. You need to keep in mind that the company will see this as a potential loss in revenue and as a cost to them. Detail what the ROI is for the company. Present as many facts and figures as you can, without overwhelming or flooding the proposition with unnecessary information. 

Build a business case around the benefits of your sabbatical. Create back-up plans and work out the processes whereby your position can be covered and maintained during your time away. Empower your team to be able to manage without you being present and map out the development benefits that your team will be getting during your time away. You can even use a week to “stress-test” your team and record the results to see where you will need to build up a team member or pillar in your department. Above all else, include the benefits of the sabbatical. Present the benefits to both you and the company and map out what you are hoping to achieve upon your return. 

Last Thoughts

It is best to be absolutely open and honest with a company at all times. If sabbaticals are an important factor in your career development, it would be advisable to choose a company that does believe in the benefits of sabbaticals. It could be worth your while to indicate when  you start with a company that this is important to you in order to know whether you would be a good fit in the organisation or not. Platforms like Wanted provide you the opportunity to match with a company that not only can afford your expected salary, but will suit your needs and expectations in working for them.