Contemplating sabbaticals

lifestyle design — By on April 14, 2008 at 11:26 am

I’ve been seeing more press these days being devoted to the concept of taking a sabbatical from work. It’s an idea that particularly interests me, since my wife and I have taken two sabbaticals since getting married in 2001 – experiences that I chronicled in my book, Two Laps Around the World. So I thought I’d catch up on some of these press clippings and cover the topic a bit more frequently in this blog.

First, an article from the New York Times (“Sabbaticals Aren’t just for Academics Anymore”), which was published a while ago but provides a nice overview of the subject.

In an age of job hopping, a perk to reward loyalty — sabbaticals for those with five years or more on the job — is taking on increased importance.

Though the academic world initiated sabbatical programs, they have been embraced by the government and the private sector, including companies as varied as McDonald’s, Nike, Boston Consulting, Goldman Sachs and Silicon Graphics as well as law and accounting firms. Some companies restrict time off to educational forays and charitable projects, while others encourage everything from beachcombing, family time and travel. Leaves can be paid or unpaid and can last weeks or months…

Measuring return on investment is almost impossible, but companies with such plans seem as enthusiastic as any sabbatical taker. They discount fears that those taking leave will use the time to find other employment.

“A lot of times, people think it’s just for the employee, but it is a tremendous advantage that we get as a company,” said Richard Floersch, chief people officer and executive vice president for worldwide human resources at McDonald’s. “It’s re-energizing that lasts more than a day. Depending on what they do while they are gone, they come back even more skilled and talented than when they left.”

And, from a more recent Wall Street Journal story.

With constant travel and 60-hour weeks pushing him close to burnout, the veteran partner at Mercer, a major human-resource consultant, decided he needed a sabbatical.

Mr. Marcus pursued an elaborate self-improvement scheme and sharpened his professional focus during an eight-month break, which ended in November 2006. “I’m a better consultant today because I bring a more balanced perspective to my work,” he says…

A sabbatical can enhance your career, especially if you acquire valuable skills, experience and insights. Extended breaks allow for personal goals, such as travel, study or research…

Sabbaticals are attracting greater attention these days from the nation’s frazzled and disengaged workforce, according to Dan Clements, who co-wrote “Escape 101: Sabbaticals Made Simple.” He took five in 15 years. About 16% of U.S. employers offered unpaid sabbaticals and 4% gave paid ones in 2007, the Society for Human Resource Management reports.

Hmm, stories in the New York Times AND the Wall Street Journal. There can’t be much more of a sign that this trend is getting noticed.

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