This summer, Lucas Group gave me the opportunity of a lifetime: a paid work sabbatical to follow my passion for exploring other cultures. For one amazing month, my husband, two teenage children, and I unplugged our phones, forgot about email, and immersed ourselves in the art, food and people of France and Italy.
Wandering through the Louvre, Uffizi and other museums, my family bonded in a unique way. And I focused entirely on life – not work-life balance, but life itself.
I’ve been working at Lucas Group since I turned 21, and for the first time as an adult, I truly focused on who I am apart from my job. Not surprisingly, I returned to work in July refreshed and refocused. Taking a break allowed my brain to rest – and made me a better teammate, partner, wife, and person.
The typical professional works 40 or more years before retirement, and for many, the only real respite is a few weeks of vacation each year. Taking extended time away from the office to enrich your life, spend more time with family, help others, learn a new skill, or follow your dreams is incredibly rewarding for employees. Sabbaticals also provide a great return on investment for the companies that offer them.
Here are a few of the upsides of offering and taking extended time away from work:
Increased Motivation and Productivity
Studies show that employees come back from a sabbatical ready to bring their renewed energy to the office. When I returned from Europe, I realized how much missed my clients, my candidates, and my work. I listen even more intently to people’s true needs now.
In an article about a rigorous multinational study on sabbaticals, Forbes Magazine found that the “positive changes often remained after people returned to work, suggesting that the sabbatees and their organizations both gained significantly from the leave itself.” An author of the study stated, “We discovered that a sabbatical affords the opportunity to acquire interpersonal and professional skills that you wouldn’t have a chance to build otherwise.”
Companies typically offer sabbaticals to employees who have worked for a certain period of time (five to seven years is common), and employees may take multiple sabbaticals as long as they work a minimum number of years in between. It’s a great incentive for workers to remain at a company longer. Some companies, like Lucas Group, offer an additional incentive for longtime employees: because I took a sabbatical after 25 years of service, the company also gave me a bonus to be used towards the cost of the trip.
Another benefit of sabbaticals is that people are far less likely to be lured away from their companies by other organizations within the first few years after they take a break because their loyalty remains high.
No matter what a person does during a sabbatical, most find that disconnecting from the daily work routine for a while gives them a fresh perspective on their business. This infusion of ideas after an employee returns can have many positive consequences for a company.
I know that I bring more value to Lucas Group now, and Forbes found the same to be true in its coverage on an important sabbatical study: “Researchers found that the majority of leaders surveyed had greater confidence in their role upon return and felt that the sabbatical allowed them to ‘think outside the box,’ generating new ideas for effecting change and raising funds for their organization. In addition, the majority found that they were better able to crystallize the existing vision for the organization and to create a new, more powerful one.”
I have a great team at Lucas Group, and when I headed for Europe, I knew I was leaving the reins in very capable hands. They rose to the challenge – which wouldn’t be a surprise to some management experts. Fast Company reports that teams learn to function in new and better ways when they have to take on the responsibilities of the missing team member. Forbes echoes that sentiment: “Most intriguingly, the researchers found that, for the majority of leaders, the interim leaders who filled in for them during their leave were more effective and responsible when their boss returned. Many interim leaders even continued in a more collaborative role with the senior leaders post-sabbatical. The leave actually provided the opportunity for second-tier leaders to develop their skills and abilities.”
Employers who offer sabbaticals give their employees a true gift of being able to unplug. It’s a life-changing opportunity – especially if you have a family – to be truly present in your life.
For anyone considering taking extended time off work, I recommend a few keys to make the most of your time:
Determine ahead of time what your passion is and make that the focus of your sabbatical. What do you want to get out of this break?
Stay free from work distractions while you are away.
Afterward, take time to digest what you learned so you can make positive changes.