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When Justin and I quit our jobs to travel in 2017, little did we expect his employer to offer him an eight-month sabbatical, the first ever in the history of his organisation. According to an article by HRM Asia, more companies will prioritise employee well being as part of their corporate strategy in 2019 yet sabbaticals are relatively rare in corporate Asia. Research shows that taking a few months off work to pursue professional or personal development goal provides a strong return on investment for both the employer and employee. And here’s why:
Five benefits of sabbaticals
Increase employee well being
How often do we hear about frustrated employees daydreaming at their desk hoping to strike a lottery and quit their jobs for good? But very often, all the employee need is time away to rest and recharge – to learn and prioritise what is important and return with renewed vigour, enthusiasm and passion. The annual “Hilton Thrive Sabbatical” gives 10 selected employees global opportunities to contribute or live a dream, which includes an all-expenses paid four-week sabbatical to take up a cause that they hold dear as well as an allowance of US$ 5,000 and a travel camera to capture their experience. That said, who doesn’t enjoy working in an environment filled with happy and motivated employees? The employer is reaping the reward too – motivated employees will boost morale, which yields higher productivity.
Employees who spend their sabbaticals volunteering will learn new skills or hone their existing skills that will benefit the company in the long run
During our travels, we spent several months as volunteers across Europe -from teaching English to providing business consultation. Not only did it expand our worldview, we also acquired some basic language skills to communicate with locals including Italian, French, Icelandic and Norwegian. But more importantly, volunteering opens up a non-threatening opportunity for us to engage in meaningful exchange of ideas – from challenging stereotypes such as social and environmental issues affecting people all over the world, the menace of capitalism to the history of imperialism.
Unlock creativity and innovation
How often do employees think outside the box? Creativity isn’t the domain of artists or musicians. Creative problem solving such as devising a new way to optimise your organisation’s procurement strategy is a good start. The reality is it’s so easy for us to slip into a life of monotony at work. Taking a sabbatical isn’t necessarily an act of regression, instead it gives us room to grow individually and professionally. When I took a career break to pursue a full-time MBA, I had to learn to unlearn and relearn because transitioning from a working professional to full-time student requires a different mindset. Beyond the career benefits of an MBA, learning among mostly Type A personality with students from varying ages and professional backgrounds allows me to – broaden perspective, harness creativity to look through different lenses and reframe thoughts on complex business challenges.
Employees are more likely to stay
Employee retention is paramount to creating a strong and sustainable workforce, failing which is costly to the bottom line and morale of the organisation. Increasingly, employees especially the millennial generation look beyond extrinsic rewards as a source of work motivation. Therefore, being an “Employer of Choice” that prioritises employee well being along with a great working environment will score you points in the global war for talent. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for an organisation that promotes employee empowerment?
Revitalise your workforce
According to a Harvard Business Review article, (David Burkus, Harvard Business Review: Research Shows That Organisations Benefit When Employees Take Sabbaticals) offering workplace sabbaticals enable the organisation to stress test the organisational chart and provides aspiring leaders an opportunity to grow. In today’s workforce, no one is indispensable and ideally, no workforce should be so dependent on an individual that without him/her, productivity takes a tumble and the company suffers. Sure, smaller organisations don’t have the luxury of finance or headcount at their disposal but contrary to popular belief, sabbaticals don’t necessarily have to be long. Any time away from daily routines will rejuvenate and reenergise our soul. How about starting with taking one day off a week?