Can Sabbaticals cure the rising employee burnout?

The Great Resignation of 2021 indicates that employees have reevaluated their priorities. Work-life balance is no more a mere preference but a must-have. In the grand scheme of things, there has also been an increase in sabbaticals, largely during COVID-19. Let’s look at how these two are connected and if Sabbaticals can solve the increasing employee burnout.

What is Sabbatical leave?

Sabbaticals are extended breaks from work that employees can take from a few months to a year to fulfill their personal goals and recover from exhaustion, and return to work refreshed. It is derived from the biblical term Sabbath, the holiday provided for rejuvenation every seventh day. Earlier associated only with academia, sabbaticals gradually found their way into the corporate world as an investment for attracting and retaining top talent. 

Why have Sabbaticals increased over the past few years?

The rate at which employees choose sabbaticals has increased, especially since COVID-19, mainly because the hustling involved in the new way of work has left people tired and burned out. Employees are given steeper goals to achieve, and the long zoom calls have drained them of all their energy. Personal errands during work hours become more frequent, leading to longer work hours to complete the tasks. 

With so much on their plate, employees feel overwhelmed and are looking for a break that can help them recover from the physical and mental exhaustion. In such cases, a mere vacation of two weeks won’t suffice. That’s where Sabbaticals help. 

How have Sabbatical leaves helped employees deal with employee burnout?

Sabbatical provides sufficient time to recover. 

A two-week vacation is too short a time to recover from prolonged stress. While it might give your employees a much-needed break, they may still be hooked to their emails or work calls. To recover from burnout, employees need to disconnect from work for at least a few months, focus on their personal goals and commitments, and restore their work-life balance.

It Fosters innovation

One of the reasons why sabbaticals existed and thrived in academia is because it gives the researchers a much-needed break from their regular school duties. Their daily routines no longer tie them down. With sabbaticals, academicians have time in hand to pursue their research, learn new skills or strengthen their existing skills and work with combinatory play. To understand it better, remember that episode in Big Bang Theory where Sheldon Cooper works in the Cheesecake factory along with Penny? Combinatory play works similarly, wherein doing something outside your regular work can open novel ways of thinking.

It can be a rewarding experience.

For tenured employees who have worked for around 5-10 years, sabbaticals are seen as a deserving award for their contributions and loyalty. That’s why companies like Hubspot, Adobe, Salesforce, etc., offer paid sabbaticals as a token of appreciation to their tenured employees. It is also a powerful motivator for employees to stay with the company long-term and perform their best. 

Sabbaticals don’t carry a stigma.

Experienced employees often take Sabbaticals who need a break from long years of continuous work. Since these employees have already proven their worth or feel guilty, they no longer worry about what others would say. Instead, it is often seen as a time to look at other career options, reevaluate their priorities, and come back with a new perspective. It has become something that employees wait for. 

Increased employee happiness, leading to increased retention.

Sabbaticals can be seen as time borrowed from retirement. For folks from earlier generations, their entire life revolved around work. Understandably so, since for them, work was about survival. However, for Millenials and GenZs, work is about a better quality of life. The Great Resignation is a testimony to that. Employees may have to work longer to get a sizeable retirement cheque, which means they have to set aside their personal goals for longer. Sabbaticals give them the freedom to try everything while enjoying job security, eventually leading to job satisfaction and happiness. 

Sabbaticals are a great way to show your employees that they are invaluable and care for their well-being. Although there’s a risk of losing these employees after sabbaticals, companies can easily prevent that with a solid sabbatical policy wherein you stipulate the back to work rules. Some companies mandate some years of service after a sabbatical or expect employees to pay out in case of resignation. In most cases, it is more of a reward that an employee enjoys as a token of appreciation for their service. It is best to use tools that simplify the process, allowing employees to peruse the policy and track their leaves, send leave applications for approval, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions on Sabbaticals

  • What is a stress sabbatical?

A stress sabbatical or Sabbatical is a long break from work that will help employees recover from the work-induced stress. It can be paid or unpaid, and companies usually have a sabbatical policy that details the procedure to apply for the same. Some companies also offer sabbaticals as a reward to employees for their long tenure at the company. 

  • Is Sabbatical the best solution for burnout?

It depends on the reason for the burnout. Sabbaticals can help if the employee feels overworked or needs some time to get their creative juices flowing. However, if the burnout is due to some underlying issue in the team, or some personal reasons, it will be best to have a one-on-one with the employee and provide them the support that can make them feel better. 

  • What is the difference between Furlough and Sabbatical?

Sabbaticals are long PTO that employee voluntarily takes to recover and refresh themselves, learn a new skill, or enhance their existing skillset. Depending on the organization’s sabbatical policy, tenure, and employee performance, it can either be fully paid, or unpaid. 

On the other hand, Furlough is the mandatory time off given to employees to reduce the company’s costs. The employees are partially compensated during this period, and once the company recovers from the financial slump, employees are called back to work. 

  • What are the benefits of Sabbatical leaves?

Organizations invest time and money in finding the right employees and training them. Further, as time passes, the employees become an integral part of the team, perform better, and are aligned with the company culture. It would be a significant waste of time and resources if such an employee were to feel burned out and quit. That’s where Sabbaticals can make a difference. By offering sabbatical leave to employees, you display empathy, respect their interests, and show your employees that you care for their well-being. It creates loyalty which helps in retaining the star performers long-term. 

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