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Give Me a Break: Why Businesses Should Consider Workplace Sabbaticals

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How often do you see TGIF pictures or updates posted on your social media accounts by friends and colleagues? Before a new week can get off to a great start, people are already wishing away the remaining four days of the work week in anticipation of the weekend. I know because I used to be one of those people. Between doing the job of two people or more during the day, running my business after-hours, being mommy, wife etc., I often wished for a professional break where I could spend time with my family, travel and pursue other interests.

Why Are So Many People Lusting For The Weekend?

In one word, people are exhausted. According to the CDC, 50-70 million US adults have some sort of sleep or wakefulness disorder. Many people are handling more than their share both personally and professionally. With technology keeping us connected around-the-clock, the divide between our professional and personal lives continue to be blurred.

When all of these factors begin to affect employee morale, absenteeism, productivity, and engagement we may need to look to the unconventional- a workplace sabbatical. Sabbaticals are quite common in the academic arena. They often use them to allow staff to reinvigorate their research interests by taking time away from their current duties. We have all reached our tipping point at one time or another- where everything in life seemed to be converging. Plainly, you wished you could take a break.

What is a Workplace Sabbatical?

A workplace sabbatical would provide eligible full-time employees with a pre-determined schedule for taking extended time off to pursue personal interests or to be with family. It can be paid or unpaid depending on how you decide to implement it. Obviously, paid leave is far more enticing than no pay at all. In return, you come back to your job and responsibilities with a fresh perspective and renewed purpose.

The shining example for workplace sabbaticals of the moment is the IT software company called Autodesk.  Autodesk offers their employees six weeks of paid time off in addition to already accrued vacation and holidays every four years. This is extremely generous. It’s no wonder they made it to #10 on Great Place to Work Institute’s list for the”World’s Best Multinationals Employers”.

Not only would your employees be recharged by virtue of a sabbatical, but they would be very clear that their company cares about their well-being and not just the bottom-line. In the interim, your employees find untapped talents, new inspiration for work projects, and some much needed rest and relaxation. You both benefit, because they bring all of their pearls of wisdom back to the organization.

This is not about giving extra time off just to give it out. It is about employers investing in their employee’s well-being which is probably more important than the actual work. If your employees are not in the right frame of mind and spirit to produce, the business suffers. It is not only a retention tool, but it also allows our employees to unplug and switch gears.  As professionals, we often misjudge the importance of downtime in the face of doing what we need to do. We are not robots. Worker Burnout is real and at an all-time high.

Did You Know? 

According to a 2013 Intuit article, Stress is costing US employers 300 billion per year. Additionally as a country, we get a 69 for health and wellness and a 75 for foundations of well-being according to the Social Progress Index. Sweden, Norway, and Finland are just a few countries that are ahead of us where it regards overall societal well-being.

Clearly, we will have to do more than offer a few days PTO; if we are going to push our workers to the max. Ensuring a sustainable and productive workforce in the present and future will require new ways of inspiring our employees.

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