The ‘Work-Life Balance’. That elusive nirvana we’re all aiming for. In a world of technology and flexible working, it’s theoretically easier than ever to make work work around us, but the flipside is the added pressure and expectation to always be, well, working. A sabbatical allows us the space and time to reset, to unblur the boundaries, to fulfil the promises we’ve made to put health/travels/family first, as well as reignite our passion for a fulfilling worklife. When you’re on sabbatical, there are no urgent emails that need a quick reply before breakfast, there is no loop to be kept in, there is no work-life balance; it’s all life balance. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Why Should I Take a Sabbatical?
Sabbaticals come about in different ways. Once the preserve of academia, they were an encouraged leave of absence for scholarly writing and research. In fact, the word sabbatical derives from the Hebrew word 'Sabbath', the day of rest, as scholars would take a year's break from their studies every seven years. Sabbaticals have now been redefined, and come about in various different circumstances across all industries. It may be about taking advantage of time off (voluntarily or otherwise) between jobs; enjoying some gardening leave (minus the gardening); taking a well-earned break from a current role. Or due to a big personal change; selling a business; shifting priorities; embarking on a fully-fledged mid-life crisis, being freshly responsibility-free (hurrah!) or easing into retirement. After all, going from spinning 20 plates at once to suddenly doing nothing can be a bit daunting.
The great thing about the word sabbatical is that it covers all of the above, but requires minimal explanation of the details, which can be tricky to talk about. Consider it a fig leaf for a wealth of situations where we're essentially just putting ourselves first for once. We have little trouble with the hedonistic pursuits of youngsters taking gap years, so let's start getting comfortable with the adult equivalent (minus the Thailand full moon parties, backpacks and hostel bunk beds, unless you want that, of course).
69% of employees surveyed across the UK and Europe said they do not have a good work-life balance.
What Should I Expect From a Sabbatical?
A sabbatical is defined simply as an extended break away from work, meaning that we can handpick all the fun stuff. They could last one month or 12, consist of ticking off multiple bucket list items across 30 different countries or spending the whole time getting under the skin of just one destination; it's all a sabbatical, and the juicy details are down to you (and us). What we do know is that however they come about and however long they last, the same themes come up again and again. ""I want to… reconnect with family/pursue self-improvement/prevent myself from burning out/reignite my passion for life and work/see the world while I can…"" Whatever your motivation, we can come up with plenty of ideas of what might work for you.
Who Would Benefit From Taking a Sabbatical?
Pretty much everyone. For CEOs, teachers, entrepreneurs etc, the benefits of being refreshed and reinvigorated both personally and professionally are so clear that there is no single profile for who needs a sabbatical, or what that break should look like. An increasing number of savvy companies are developing sabbatical policies for their staff because the positive impact on employee retention and workplace happiness is huge. Indeed, 25% of Fortune's '100 Best Companies to Work For' offer their staff sabbaticals. It's never been more socially acceptable to prioritise life over work. There's no longer any stigma about putting our wellbeing first, in whatever form that takes.
Work Benefits of Taking a Sabbatical
Taking a sabbatical doesn't have to mean tuning out entirely. In fact, we may find ourselves refocusing the energy normally channelled into work into a philanthropic project or to learning a new skill. Whether we're swapping morning meetings for mountain biking or mindful meditation, travel in all forms broadens the mind and inspires us in myriad ways. From appreciating the joy of simplicity in rural life to experiencing a wealth of culture and history in ancient cities, these skills, challenges and experiences transcend the personal to enrich our professional lives too, letting us bring new perspectives and ideas into the workplace. MD of Personal Career Management Corinne Mills suggests: 'Taking time out to study, learn a new skill or try some interesting experiences can be positively life-changing, both professionally and from a personal point of view. Stepping off the treadmill of work enables you to think about what you really want to do with the rest of your career, and life.'
No matter what you do as a day job, we've all experienced the benefit of seeing things through a different lens. Sometimes when we're caught up in the moment of a project, we forget exactly what we're doing and why we're doing it. We often look to an outsider for an objective point of view, but a sabbatical allows you the emotional and physical space to be that outsider yourself.
Who am I? What do I want? Why do I want it? How can I make it happen? Very important questions, but ones that can get lost in the day-to-day doing of life. If we only have a limited amount of energy and we've already used up a hefty portion running a business/team/project; or on our commute; or on politics at work; or the general daily grind, how can we be expected to have the time, energy and space to see the bigger picture? Viewing the world from another perspective can make us realise we want something totally different - a complete career change - or maybe it will make us appreciate what we already have and renew our passion for it. Either way, we'll have more clarity and be making more informed decisions.
Health Benefits of Taking a Sabbatical
It's no secret that stress has a massive impact on our health, both physical and mental. Reduce stress and you also reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure and mental health issues... the list goes on. The sad truth is that some of us don't appreciate our health until it's too late; until either we or someone close to us has a wake-up call that makes us sit up and value our physical and mental wellbeing. Whether you're currently in top shape, looking to improve or want to totally revamp your health routine, taking a sabbatical not only eliminates the health-battering stress-factor of work from our lives, but also allows us to focus generally on what our bodies and minds actually want and need.
We've become so used to rushing from pillar to post, grabbing food on the go (we're no strangers to a cheeky desk lunch between meetings), pushing ourselves until we have no energy to do anything but watch TV and go to bed; where do we find the time to simply sit and think and reflect? Mindfulness and meditation have become increasingly popular in the West for this very reason - we're searching for a way to be in tune with ourselves - but it's often temporary, and finding the time can be tough, so the cycle continues. Even our sacred holidays that we've worked so hard for are only a temporary change of pace before we're right back in the rat race again.
Always being in work mode can mean we forget to make time for the things we actually enjoy and that make us happy. Studies show that 15% of people are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace, and evidence suggests that 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK are attributable to mental health issues. Sabbaticals provide a remedy, a total break from the norm to help us reset ourselves, refocus our priorities and - essentially - put our wellbeing and happiness first. Being happier makes us healthier.
Personal Benefits of Taking a Sabbatical
Sadly, it's not uncommon to find ourselves disconnected from those we love the most. Whether our family consists of a partner, children or any other wonderful combination, time away from the stresses of everyday life on a sabbatical can help us reconnect, rebuild and strengthen these important bonds. Overcoming challenges together, having more time for one another and enjoying fresh experiences together bonds us.
The same is true if the person we're disconnected from is ourself, left wondering who we are and where we belong. Whether it's a full-on identity crisis or a more gentle dawning realisation that we're far from being the person we thought we'd turn out to be, travelling to new places with new challenges - and the space to make mistakes and try new things - can help us figure things out.
44% of clients who took a sabbatical with Original Travel did so out of a desire for self-improvement.