How to ask for a sabbatical from work: A step-by-step guide

Nov 3, 2021

Ever caught yourself scrolling through pictures of the Amalfi Coast while your to-do list tries to catch your eye? You're not alone. You'd probably do anything to spend a few months away from work, but you not sure if you'll have a job to come back to. If only there were some magic command that kept your job on hold while you travelled, introspected, and swum with dolphins...

There is, friend. It's called sabbatical leave.

Sabbaticals have been around in academics, but work sabbaticals are only starting to catch on. Many organisations perhaps don't have a sabbatical policy (yet). But that's not stopping anyone from weighing the pros and cons of it. So if you feel like you need to take sabbatical leave, there's no better time to get your foot in the door.

If you're thinking: "Wait back up, what's a sabbatical?", then here's our ultimate guide to sabbatical leave. Go ahead and read it, we'll wait.

Done? Okay, let's jump into how to ask for sabbatical leave.

How long is a career sabbatical?

Well, that depends. Firstly, the length of a sabbatical from work depends on organisation policy. However, they can last anywhere from a few months to an entire year on average. And depending on the length of the sabbatical, they can be unpaid, partially or fully paid.

When you apply for a sabbatical, your manager will agree to let you return to your job or a similar role. But, if that's not what you're looking for, perhaps a career break is what you're looking for!

Why take a career sabbatical?

A sabbatical can give you the time you need to disconnect from work. It gives you space for introspection. You also get the bonus of working on your ambitions and projects that you've been putting away. Sabbaticals are an opportunity to explore what the world holds for you, to embrace new ways of living and experience intentional discomfort and curiosity.

How to ask for a sabbatical from work

Offer a foolproof plan

Think about why you want to take time off, and what you aim at doing in the months you're going to be away. Go the extra mile and come up with solutions on how your responsibilities could be handled and how the sabbatical will benefit everyone in the organisation in the long haul. When you show concern towards the organisation's goals and offer solid solutions, it reassures your manager and shows your allegiance to the organisation!

Involve your manager and any team member who directly works with you

Once you have a plan in mind, it's essential to sit with your manager and team. It's best to inform them as early as possible. The goal is to give your manager and team enough time to discuss an alternative plan, hire new team members (if required), and allow for a smooth transition.

Additionally, involving your manager can help you align your sabbatical needs to the organisation's policies and requirements. That kind of transparency could even lead to you getting a paid sabbatical! (Fingers crossed 🤞🏽)

Lastly, your manager can also help you decide your key objectives for the sabbatical period and how you could extend some of your learnings to the organisation as well!

Make your case

When you initiate a formal request, show your organisation how the sabbatical will help all the parties in the long run. Highlight any skills you plan on acquiring and how you'll use them to achieve key metrics at your place of work. Your manager is more likely to agree to your request if you have a clear why.

Don't forget to reinforce your commitment to your organisation. When you let your manager know that you'll be eager to return to work, it reassures their faith in you.

Present your request as something flexible

Make room for negotiation and compromise. While offering a concrete plan goes a long way in showing your readiness, you should also keep the organisation's needs in mind. Gauge your manager's response as you explain your final plan.

Approach your negotiation from a place of openness and gratitude. Your manager is more likely to be receptive to your needs when you illustrate your reasons from a concise standpoint.

Be open about your availability

Inform your team members of the duration for which you won't be available. Additionally, you would not want important meetings to be scheduled with you when you're away. If only there was a tool to do all that for you....wait, there is! 🤯

Pause's shared calendar view lets your team members know your availability at a single glance. The app also has an auto-decline feature that turns down meeting invites for you when you're unavailable. Additionally, Pause updates your status on Slack with a 🌴 emoji to let your colleagues know you're on a break!

If you're interested to learn more about what we do or are curious to understand how setting up Pause would like for your team — book a demo here!

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