Sabbatical from work – here’s why and how

Sabbatical from work - here's why and how
Sabbatical from work – here’s why and how

What is a sabbatical?

Historically a sabbatical meant a rest from work for about a year. It is referenced in the Holy Bible as the time when God rested after creating the universe.

In today’s context, a sabbatical has a very similar meaning – a long absence from our career, during which we plan to achieve something like writing a book, travelling afar, running a side project, or study for a new subject or course.

A sabbatical is treated differently in each company. Some organizations offer a paid leave to pursue higher studies, research etc., The others grant an unpaid leave of absence for a career break.

Planning for a sabbatical

The first step is to find your purpose for a sabbatical. You need to ask yourself some soul-searching questions

Here are some tips to pick your best do:

  • Pick an activity that you’d enjoy doing.

  • Visualize where you want to be at the end of your sabbatical.

  • Devise your periodic goals (e.g. monthly) to take you to your destination.

Mental preparation

Going on a sabbatical requires a lot of mental preparation on various aspects of your work and life. Some of the key areas you would want to consider are:

  • Financial security – planning your finances during and a little beyond your gap year.

  • Possibility of having your job after the sabbatical

  • Opportunity cost – what would you have got by continuing your work vs., taking the break

  • Plans post-sabbatical

Eliminating the negatives

The negative forces that prevent a vast majority of the workforce from going for a sabbatical are usually their own mind blocks like:

  • Fear of the unknown

  • Self-doubt – “am I capable of a come back?”, “will I end up losing?”

  • Scarcity thinking – that the jobs might vanish soon

Being more mindful is the key to alleviating your internal fears and insecurities. Believe in yourself and your ability to learn something new and make a progress.

Preparing your employer

Here are some steps you need to execute to work out your sabbatical arrangement with your employer:

Step 1. Do your homework before you broach the topic with your folks

  • Check your company’s HR/people policies around sabbatical or leave of absence. Find out the paid and unpaid options that exist

  • Be aware of the formalities you need to complete

  • List out whom you need to talk to – your immediate supervisor, department head, business partners, clients etc.,

  • Check the benefits you would retain, the ones you have to forgo, and the ones that would resume when you join back

Step 2. Prepare your discussion with your management. Have a plan for them handy.

Give them the details like

  • Time and duration of your break

  • Who would fill in your shoes

  • How you would transition your responsibilities

  • How you would put your newly gained skills to use at work, once you are back

Step 3. Set up the meeting with your manager to discuss your sabbatical arrangements. Anticipate her questions. Be prepared to negotiate the timing, duration, transition plan etc., Offer to help where possible and where needed.

Step 4. Once your manager approves your sabbatical, complete the necessary formalities with HR/your department administration. Talk to other supporting staff if needed. Work with your manager to complete what you committed.

After the gap year

Once you’ve executed on your plan, these tips can help you step into the next phase of your journey:

  • Be an avid networker. Go to meet-ups and professional networking events. Talk to as many people about your interests, aspirations and engage in meaningful conversations with people in your field of choice

  • Keep your profile updated with your current skills, knowledge, experiences, projects, and volunteering opportunities

  • Have your career break listed on your profile and mention your accomplishments during the time

  • If you choose to go back to your employer, see how you can sell the newly gained skills for a better position or a move to a department of your choice

  • If you are looking for a change of career, take stock of your transferable skills from your work experience so far and include the projects you did during the break

It is easier said than done. But the hustle will be well worth it. You will see the fruits of your labor, take shape!

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Sabbatical from work - here's why and how
Sabbatical from work – here’s why and how


  1. I love this! My husband told me yesterday that I need to take time off my 9-5 to focus fully on the blog (I’ve been wanting to since it started generating income but hadn’t mentioned it to him). Anyway, I didn’t even know how to start planning for that. So your post is perfectly timed for me! Thank you!

  2. I know some teachers take a sabbatical while they are working on a degree. I can’t imagine taking off such an extensive amount of time off. You however have covered alot of the areas that need to be considered before deciding. It more then just financial you need to be focused and the time off needs to be with purpose.

  3. Very Informative Post! I never even really knew much about sabbaticals but after reading this I can definitely understand why they are important. Looking back now I guess that’s exactly what I decided to do after leaving my full-time secure job. I feel like everyone would need to take at least one in their life. Thanks so much for this!

  4. Man, I would love to take a break. But I can tell you that in the state of Texas, if you leave… your job won’t be there when you get back. It stinks but it’s definitely something that has to be considered before you take that leap.

  5. Thank you, Roxanne! Oh yes. Not every company or context is the same. But if an employer has a leave of absence policy, it should be possible to pitch the value of a sabbatical to the employer. And to extend a maternity leave or child care leave into a sabbatical. So, a mom can come back to add value to her employer 🙂

  6. Glad you find this helpful, Jean! It is true that finances dictate our decisions for the most part. We may also consider some freelancing, during the break, if it does not violate the employer’s policies.

    There are people who’re making more money freelancing part-time than from their 9-5 jobs. But that is after they develop some contacts in the field 🙂

  7. Oh that is sad. But the good thing is when we know the state of affairs, we can plan to pursue our passions accordingly.

    A side project along with a day job, or planning our finances for a few years before deciding to take the plunge might work for us too.

    Thank you so much, for sharing your wonderful perspectives, Christine 🙂

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