Scratching That Itch… We’re Talking Sabbaticals

A healthy work/life balance is a huge factor in our happiness. It’s important to feel fulfilled both in and out of the office. This means managing our wellbeing professionally, personally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

One of our company values at Yieldr is “Complete Life”. To support this value, Yieldr recently introduced sabbaticals as a new initiative for the company. Here’s why it’s such a good thing.

1. What Exactly Is a Sabbatical?

A sabbatical is a special type of leave awarded to people to recognize a long-term commitment to the company. It’s a set time away from work to take a break and experience new things so they can return with a renewed sense of motivation.

Some companies refer to sabbaticals as career breaks or long service leave. It’s a separate type of leave when compared to vacation leave.

Sabbaticals can come in many forms. They can be paid or unpaid, short-term or long-term, and used to travel, volunteer, spend time with family, or anything else in between.

2. What Can You Do During a Sabbatical?

Anything you want! It’s a well-deserved chance to explore your passions. People can use this time to travel, volunteer, learn new skills, take up new hobbies, catch up on life, spend quality time with loved ones, or simply relax. There’s no set rule on how you can spend this time – after all, it’s YOUR time.

I’ve already taken an extended break from work. It came when I reached the three-year mark at my first “grown-up” job, where one of the benefits was a career break. We could take unpaid leave for a period up to 12 months to pursue other interests, without sacrificing our careers.

So that’s exactly what I did. I used the time to travel extensively, explore career options, improve my foreign language skills and discover so many things that can’t be learned in an office environment. Eventually, it led me to Amsterdam and now, Yieldr.

3. Why Are Sabbaticals Important?

The job security that comes with a sabbatical is a huge benefit. Taking an extended break while knowing your role will still be open for you is a win-win situation – it prevents a lot of the stress associated with quitting your job and searching for a new one.

A sabbatical can give you much-needed rest and time to recharge. The time away from daily work life will allow you to learn about yourself, focus on what’s important and gain a new perspective on life – you’ll come back inspired and full of energy.

Using the time off to explore your interests and passions will also give you a renewed sense of purpose. You may even discover your ikigai – the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.

Companies also benefit when people take sabbaticals, as they can challenge their organizational depth. Can someone else step up and answer the bell? Or is the organization too thin at certain levels?

At this point, other team members have the opportunity to grow. They can embrace extra challenges, approach problem-solving from different perspectives and take on leadership roles.

A sabbatical program is also good from a human resources point of view. It shows potential applicants that the company cares about a healthy work/life balance. It also keeps valuable talent within the company, thus improving employee retention. This, in turn, reduces the costs of turnover that would otherwise be incurred in recruiting and training a replacement.

Finally, when someone returns from a sabbatical, they’re likely to be more enthusiastic, focused, innovative and productive. They’ll also come back with new skills that can greatly benefit the company.

4. What Can Sabbaticals Look Like?

Sabbaticals are built into the law in some countries. For example, Australian states and territories each have their own legislation allowing people to take paid long-service leave after a specific number of years with the same employer.

People with full-time permanent jobs in Sweden are entitled to a six-month leave of absence, called tjänstledighet, where they can launch a company. There are also other Acts that allow for long-term parental leave or study leave.

The academic world is no stranger to sabbaticals. Traditionally, they have allowed professors to take an extended break from their regular duties to recharge, be exposed to new ideas and pursue research projects.

Start-ups and tech companies are also embracing sabbaticals. It’s no surprise, given the “always-on” work culture and instant connectivity associated with the industry.

Weebly, the website building service, has a paid sabbatical program called “Weebly Wanderlust”. People who have worked there for five years receive six weeks of leave and an international plane ticket to a destination of their choice.

Early in 2019, Google introduced the Fellowship. The program allows Google employees to work for non-profits for up to six months. Not only do workers feel fulfilled from giving back to the community, but the businesses themselves benefit greatly by having access to valuable talent.

Every seven years, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister (a favorite of Yieldr’s illustrator, Rita) closes his studio and takes a one-year sabbatical to pursue things he can’t do in a regular working year.

His rationale? On average, people spend 25 years learning, 40 years working, and 15 years in retirement. Sagmeister decided to cut off 5 of those retirement years and intersperse them between those working years.

The results are clearly great for him as an individual. But more importantly, the work that comes out from these sabbaticals flows back to the company and society at large.

5. How Does It Work at Yieldr?

When the sabbaticals initiative was announced during a company-wide meeting, our CMO Joe presented some guidelines.

  • People must be at Yieldr for 5 years to qualify for a sabbatical.
  • The sabbatical is up to one month of paid leave and must be used all at once.
  • It can’t be substituted for a cash payout.
  • Sabbaticals must be planned well in advance with the team and officially approved.
  • It can be extended with regular vacation days (if it works out with the team).
  • If someone qualifies for a sabbatical, they don’t need to use it right away – sabbaticals won’t expire.

Sabbaticals were announced in January 2019, and we already have our first “sabbatee”!

Jeroen with his sabbatical gift from Yieldr - a personal travel thermos!

Our Product Manager Jeroen hit the 5-year mark at Yieldr on November 1, 2018. He was able to combine his vacation hours with four weeks of sabbatical leave and he’s currently exploring South America!

There’s no denying the power of a sabbatical. Have you ever taken one? Would you? Take the time to think about how it could benefit you and help you live a complete life.

Jodi ten Bohmer

Jodi ten Bohmer

Content Marketer