5 reasons why you should take a sabbatical

Apr 1, 2023

Marc Benioff joined Oracle at just 23 years old and landed a VP role only three years later. A decade into work, he found himself burnt out, unhappy, and uninspired. So he took a sabbatical — meditating, swimming with dolphins, the works. He came out the other side with a business idea, one that would grow to land him on the cover of Forbes, name him one of Silicon Valley's leading visionaries, and add to his net worth a shocking number of zeros: Salesforce.

Today, Benioff is worth USD 4.4 billion, and the seeds of Salesforce were planted when he took a 6-month break to reflect on what he wanted out of life.

Benioff is far from alone, even if we don't hear such tales too often. Many entrepreneurs, CXOs and leaders take a long mid-career break to realign their values, recharge their batteries or—as in Benioff's case—think up the next world-changing idea. Despite that, and thanks to the sabbatical vs leave of absence debate, sabbaticals are surrounded by a lot of ambiguity and only feature in a few organisational policies.

Sabbatical leave is an opportunity for team members to go on an extended break and reconnect with themselves. During the sabbatical period, individuals expose themselves to activities that have been on their bucket list, expand their skillset or travel. Sabbaticals benefit not just the team member who is opting for it but also the organisation.

5 reasons to consider taking sabbatical leave

#1: Go back to school

The most popular reason for opting for sabbatical leave is further education. Maybe you feel the need to upgrade your degree, or you're keen to explore new and upcoming niches in your industry. Maybe you're planning to change career paths entirely. Whatever the fine print, education is a valid reason for a sabbatical.

Depending on your organisation's sabbatical leave policy, your studying need not be limited to conventional arenas. Do you have a yoga certification you've always wanted to do? Put a checkmark against that. Or, do you want to invest in any online MOOC courses? Go ahead with that too. The opportunities to learn are limitless!

#2: Volunteer your time, resources and skills

Volunteering and giving back to the community is a fantastic way to invite purpose back into your life and nurture your values. While it's pretty common to volunteer in tandem with holding down a full-time job, many sabbatical-takers wanted to dedicate all their time to a cause and immerse themselves fully. This is especially true if a volunteer opportunity is in another part of the world or is very hands-on.

Taking sabbatical leave to volunteer is a great way to introspect about where your interests lie and how you want to move forward in your life. It encourages you to work with local teams, develop cross-cultural rapport and often, learn a new language. The soft skills you'll build in the process will be invaluable in giving your career the boost it needs.

#3: Get out of your echo chamber by travelling

Perhaps you feel like there's more to life than your work. Or, you're itching to escape the mundane. Either way, wanting to experience change is normal. It's not easy to step out of your comfort zone immediately, but that doesn't mean it's not possible.

One of the most common ways people experience change is through travelling. Why? Think about all the cultures, food, people, architecture and experiences you'll be exposed to. Travelling is not only about seeing new places, but also about learning new ways of living.

#4: Start a side project

We're big fans of side projects here at Pause because they focus on your passions, hone your skills, and challenge you creatively. There's also the added benefit of disentangling your self-worth and productivity from your day job. Taking a sabbatical leave gives you the time and space to pick up projects you've been putting off. You won't feel guilty about using office hours for personal work; you'll also be able to dedicate your undivided attention to your side hustle.

A word of warning: Be sure to check that starting a side project or running another business does not contradict any clause in your full-time job's contract. Take a minute to do the research, and you'll be on your way!

#5: Reinvent yourself

If you're looking for a sign to realign your goals and rekindle your true self — this is it. You can use a mental health sabbatical to re-evaluate all the habits you've subconsciously built for yourself and identify ways they don't serve you anymore.

Checking in with yourself can give you the push you need to balance your work and personal life. Often, when individuals take a sabbatical to focus on their satisfaction and well-being, they feel rejuvenated and return to work feeling more pumped!

Take the leap

The decision of going on sabbatical leave can be a challenging but rewarding one to make. There are tons of benefits of taking a sabbatical — for both employees and organisations, mind you. So if your organisation's sceptical about a sabbatical program, you know what to tell 'em!

In the end, a sabbatical can be a rewarding, even eye-opening, experience. You give yourself the possibility to feel new waves of creativity and ambition. Trust yourself to make the right decision, and you will.

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