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Sabbaticals - The Changing Work Environment

More and more companies are becoming employee friendly, thus the organizations may also come up with the ideas of making the employee work part time or from home as well, according to the flexibility of the employee. Contemporarily this is catching up especially in IT industry subsequently followed by other service industry such as HR etc. About 18 percent of firms offer unpaid sabbaticals, and 5 percent give paid sabbaticals, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. These are often available to those who have worked for a firm between 5 and 10 years.

While some companies are more proactive about it, it's basically a question of mutual adjustability. Many employees now want the flexibility to take an extended period away from work to travel abroad, study, look after children or older relatives, or simply to recharge their batteries.


Employers are increasingly accommodating such requests by offering career breaks or sabbaticals.

Career break schemes give employers the discretion to retain valued employees who want to take a significant amount of time, perhaps years, away from work to focus on these other aspects of their lives. Employees are not paid during this time, but have the right to return to work or at least to apply for re-engagement on favorable terms.

But the major concern in the case of sabbaticals on behalf of the employer is, as to who will cover the employee’s work while she/ he is gone. Since you're granting the employee an extended leave, it's unfair to expect him or her to constantly check in and provide information while away.

(And if that is the case, employer should definitely pay 100 percent of the salary!) The employee and his or her manager will have to work out who will cover which duties until the employee returns. This is similar to what would occur with an employee on a vacation, but on a larger scale.

The employee definitely benefits, but what the employer is interested in is whether the added qualifications helps the organization in the long run.

Sabbaticals help an employee to realign priorities, and give the time for oneself.

Often, stress prevents most of individuals from enjoying their jobs and also impacts the personal lives. In such cases, a break helps you set ones life in order and come back with a bang. The employee may return refreshed and ready to tackle, with a greater conviction at his/ her workplace, as sabbaticals also helps the employee to introspect and evaluate.


Employees who take advantage of these programs speak enthusiastically about coming back relaxed and rejuvenated. Managers see them as a way to reward and retain employees. However there is a challenge attached to it, returning to work after a lengthy break may prove difficult on both a practical and a psychological level. It is also natural to be dismayed at the changes that may have taken place at the work place. There could have been some kind of major re-structuring in departments or work policies. New technology might have transformed the office. New employees would have joined and sometimes you might find even the old ones behaving differently. These are difficult to cope with.

In most cases, its not decided beforehand what would be the exact time of comeback if the absence is more than 3- 4 months (varies for different organizations), its left open to the employee only to return as per his/her convenience. However, in the contemporary environment, many organizations encourage sabbaticals for further studies, which of course has to be related to the advantage of the organization. All companies that use such a program have rules about time. Service served anywhere from five to seven years is typical. Companies go all out to retain their best talent and these strategic breaks allow people to do something different while being able to hold on to their jobs and their pay packets. For an employer, it is always a favorable condition as the employee is already accustomed with the work culture.

If properly promoted throughout the company, sabbaticals can be an excellent retention tool. The organizations see it as creating a higher relationship with its employees. 

Written By: By Shuporna Chakraborti [email protected]

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