How To Plan a Sabbatical (and Other FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 July 2021

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.

Sabbaticals are helpful tools that employees can use when they need to take a break from their position's responsibilities or pursue other interests in their life. It allows you to come back to your work with a renewed sense of purpose. If you're hoping to take a sabbatical, it's important to understand the best way to prepare for one, including financial planning and notifying your employer. In this article, we discuss what a sabbatical is, how to plan for one and other important information about sabbaticals, such as if they're paid.

What is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical is a break from work that an employee might take to pursue their interests or hobbies, such as writing, travelling and volunteering. While taking a sabbatical, individuals are still employed at their company, but they don't perform any of their job duties while they're away. Sabbaticals are most common in educational institutions and universities where professors can take sabbaticals for a few semesters to pursue other projects, such as taking a holiday or conducting research in their field.

However, other companies can also offer a sabbatical to their employees, allowing them to take some time off, generally, six months to a year, to pursue other interests or take a holiday.

How to plan a sabbatical

Here are the steps for how to plan a sabbatical:

1. Determine if it's time

Before approaching your employer about a sabbatical, it's important to figure out if now is the right time for an extended break. Having a clear understanding of why you're taking some time off can help you figure out what you'd like to do during your sabbatical and how much time you might need. For example, if you're hoping to use the sabbatical to relax and take your mind off work, you can figure out the best way to achieve that goal, whether that's taking a long trip or spending some time with family and friends.

2. Figure out the details

Figuring out the details of the sabbatical plan can help you determine important information and allow you to prepare for the sabbatical ahead of time. Some important things to consider when developing your sabbatical plan are:

  • When the sabbatical will start

  • Where you're hoping to go

  • When you want to return

  • Who you need to notify

  • How much money you'll need

3. Plan your finances

How much money you'll need, and determining the other financial requirements of your sabbatical is often one of the most important factors to consider. Companies don't always pay their employees while they're on a sabbatical, which can often require you to determine how much the sabbatical will cost, and what essentials you'll need to pay for while you're taking time off from the business. Figuring out these details ahead of time and making preparations can help you immediately enjoy your sabbatical once it starts.

4. Start saving money

Once you determine how much money your sabbatical will cost, it's helpful to save right away and use your sabbatical start date as a goal. There are several ways you can save your money while still fulfilling your job responsibilities, including developing a budget and saving a percentage of your paycheck. By developing a budget, you can determine the areas of your life where you might be able to save money by spending less. For example, if you go out to eat four times a week, you could reduce that to two times a week.

By saving a percentage of your paycheck, you can put aside a little money every time you get paid to help save for your sabbatical. If the percentage is large enough, this method can help you save with a minimal amount of effort. If you still need to save more money, you can always try other methods, including selling used items, such as clothes or electronics, online or at a consignment store.

5. Talk to your employer

It's important to talk with your employer about your sabbatical so they can approve the time off and plan for your absence. For companies or institutions with a sabbatical plan, simply go through the request process developed by your organisation to inform your employer of your sabbatical. If the request process is automated, it's also beneficial to email your employer or talk to them in person so they have more information about your planned break.

Companies without a sabbatical plan

For organisations that don't have a sabbatical plan, it's important to talk with your employer to see if a sabbatical might be possible. Before approaching your employer about a sabbatical, it's important to develop a presentation or plan to help you navigate the conversation. It's also helpful to focus on how your time off could benefit the company and improve its productivity or revenue. Some popular benefits can include:

  • More motivated work ethic

  • Developing new skills

  • Saving the company money by paying one less salary

Once you have a strong presentation or list of benefits for your employer, it's important to set up a time to talk with them a few months before your sabbatical start date. Having an earlier conversation can give them enough time to comprehend your reasoning and get the sabbatical approved by other executives if necessary.

Related: 10 Effective Communication Skills for Career Success

6. Delegate responsibilities

Before you take your sabbatical, especially if you're leaving on a vacation, it's important to make sure that you take care of all your at-home responsibilities, including your belongings, pets and bills. If you need someone to watch your plants, pets or your house while you're away, consider asking neighbours or family members if they would have the ability. If they can't it's good to know earlier so you have enough time to hire a house-sitter before you leave.

If possible, it's also helpful to set up auto payments for your bills. Setting up auto payment can ensure that you don't forget to pay any bills and have everything financially taken care of while you're away.

7. Maintain credentials and skills

Though you won't be working at your current place of employment while on sabbatical, maintaining your credentials and skills while you're away can help you transition back to work more efficiently. For example, if your job requires you to speak or interpret a foreign language, it's helpful to practice that language every week to make sure your skills remain strong. If you have important certifications, it's also beneficial to watch and renew them while on your sabbatical if necessary.

It might also be helpful to stay up-to-date with the latest news from your field or industry. For example, if you work in finance or investing, it's helpful to read important financial news so you have a better understanding of what the company might be trying to achieve when you return.

Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a CV

Sabbatical FAQs

Here are a few frequently asked questions about sabbaticals:

Why might someone take a sabbatical?

There are several reasons why someone might take a sabbatical, including:

  • Job search: If someone isn't satisfied with their current position or career, they can use a sabbatical to pursue other opportunities and hopefully find a new career they're passionate about.

  • Rest and relaxation: Sometimes people just need some extra personal time, especially when working a high-stress job. Sabbaticals are a great opportunity for individuals to pursue their hobbies or interests that give them or life, or to just take a much-needed holiday.

  • Academic research: Professors might use a sabbatical to perform academic research in their field of study or take a teaching position in a foreign school or institution. These types of sabbaticals can help the professors gain a better understanding of the subjects they teach and allow them to develop as individuals.

  • Volunteer opportunities: Some employees like to use their sabbatical to volunteer with organisations that might require travel or an extended period of focus. For example, some individuals might choose to use their sabbatical to help build a school or hospital in an impoverished country.

Read more: What are the Benefits of Volunteering? Top Reasons to Volunteer

Are sabbaticals normally paid?

Whether or not a sabbatical is paid often depends on the company that's providing it. If a company doesn't normally offer a sabbatical to its employees, it might be less willing to send them on an extended break with their full salary. However, if a company has an established sabbatical program or system, it might be more willing to pay the employees for their time off, or at least pay them a percentage of their salary.

How long should a sabbatical be?

The length of a sabbatical often depends on the individual who is taking it. Though some companies might have a pre-determined amount of sabbatical time they offer to their employees, other companies might allow employees to request the amount of time they need or desire. Before taking a sabbatical, it's important to determine how much time off you might need and talk with your employer to see how much time they're willing to give you.

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