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A sabbatical is not a luxury

(Source: SME)

What purpose does it serve?

The basic motives or reasons for sabbaticals can be varied. People who have found themselves at a certain breaking point and need a rest to take up new strength or time for thinking over a new direction in their careers, take sabbaticals. Or those, who in the right moment, find in themselves courage to push the “off” button and others, who feel that a classical holiday for recovery is simply no longer enough for them. Another reason may also be the need to take care of a child or an old or ill family member. Last but not least, many people use sabbaticals for additional education or travelling.

Whatever the reason for this managed, typically unpaid break is, those pondering a sabbatical should have in mind that the Slovak Labour Code does not specify it and should find out whether his or her employer enables such a career break and under what conditions. Also if they can afford it and properly organise activities during the sabbaticals as well as the return back to the working process.  

Career break 

Sabbatical as a career break is not a luxury. Many working people have the feeling of being irreplaceable. They take no long vacations as nobody is able to do their work as perfect as they can. But at a certain moment, work may swallow such people and suck them into a vicious circle. Some hard working people can, but not all, register the first signals of psychological or physical exhaustion. If they ignore these signals, they are heading for a fall or burnout.

A career break means a complete interruption of relations to work with the aim to have the opportunity to fully give one’s time to things or activities for which there was no time along with normal work. Some people may need just three months for such an effective reset while others feel they need to break off for longer. But a sabbatical-taker has to determine how long to stay outside the working process and know what to devote attention to.

Planning is important

When planning a sabbatical, the first question jumping into the mind of most is: “Can I afford it?” To answer this question it is necessary to know how long a potential sabbatical-taker will be without a regular income and what he or she wants to accomplish during the sabbatical. It is recommended to save for sabbatical, but there are also companies which support their employee also on a sabbatical with a certain monthly sum. Mostly these are companies which have taken such a kind of a break as an established model from their parent company; but realistically there are not so many of them.

Many use sabbatical for launching new projects or activities, which they had in their mind for long. However, these should not be in conflict and should not create a competitive environment with the employer and the work the sabbatical-taker has carried out so far. Many learn languages or treat themselves to educational courses, while a high percentage travel because these are usually activities for which there was no time before. A large share of sabbatical-takers rest by sports and spend much more time with family and friends. Finally they find time to ‘clean up’ all things in their lives, to draw energy and recovery their bodies.

What is not less important is to know what to do after sabbatical has ended. As far as it is possible, the sabbatical-taker, upon agreement with the employer, returns to his original work position – with views broadened, a new outlook on problems at work, great motivation and zest to work. The shorter the sabbatical is, the easier it is to agree with the employer about it. A certain percentage of sabbatical-takers do not return to the original job when the cleansing of the mind brings new ideas and many times also appetite and courage to try something different and new.

Outcomes

Experiences of those who have tried sabbatical are explicit – some call it the best investment in life; others the most sensible step, while actually there do not exist any negative responses to a planned sabbatical. As a consequence, many of those who tried a sabbatical treat themselves to holidays more often as they learn to collect power and motivation during a couple of days or weeks far from the office. 

Wise employers offer sabbaticals to top managers and specialists as a non-material benefit. This way they secure the best human capital. But it is estimated that only less than 5 percent of companies enable their employees a career break. Equally the number of those courageous enough to take this step is not high.

Mária Balušinská is country manager of Randstad Bratislava

Topic: Career and HR


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