How to ask for a sabbatical from work

Sindhu Shivaprasad

Ever caught yourself scrolling through pictures of the Amalfi Coast while steadily avoiding your to-do list?

You're not alone. You'd probably do anything to spend a few months away from work, but you're 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 don’t have a sabbatical policy (yet). But that shouldn’t stop you from weighing the pros and cons. So if you feel like you need to take a sabbatical from work, 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.

How long is a career sabbatical?

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. Depending on the length of the sabbatical, they can be unpaid, partially or fully paid.

When you apply for a sabbatical, your manager should 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 might be a better fit?

Why take a sabbatical from work?

A sabbatical can give you the time you need to disconnect from work. It gives you space for introspection and, at the same time, broadens your perspective. For many, sabbatical leave is time to work on the projects and ambitions they’ve been putting away for months. 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

Asking for a sabbatical from work in an organisation that doesn’t have a fixed policy might be tricky. However, the main rule is this: be clear and communicate with your team. Let’s dive in!

Offer a foolproof plan

Think about why you want to take a sabbatical from work and what you aim to do. Come up with ways to redistribute your responsibilities and clearly lay down how your sabbatical will benefit the organisation in the long run. When you show concern towards the organisation’s goals and offer solid solutions, it can sway any decision-making in your favour!

Involve your manager and team members in your planning

Once you have a plan in mind, it’s best to inform teammates as early as possible. The goal is to them enough time to discuss an alternative plan, hire new team members (if required), and allow for a smooth transition.

Involving your manager can help you align your sabbatical needs to the organisation’s requirements. That kind of transparency could lead to concrete sabbatical policies that your colleagues will thank you for!

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 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’.

Present your request as something flexible

Make room for negotiation and compromise, especially when discussing a sabbatical from work in an organisation that doesn’t yet have concrete policies. To learn what you’re willing to forgo, you need to list out what you absolutely want from your sabbatical. When both parties have all cards on the table, you’re more likely to reach a deal that suits everyone!

Be open about your availability

Let your team members know well in advance that you won’t be available for a few weeks or months. They’ll need to know not to send you meeting invites — you can block off your calendar or use a tool like Pause to auto-decline meeting invites.

In case someone forgets you’re on a sabbatical from work (it’ll happen, trust us), it also helps to set indicators on your favourite communication channels, like an ‘away’ emoji on Slack or OOO notices on email. This way you’ll have covered all your bases and won’t be leaving any teammate in the lurch.

Take a sabbatical from work with Pause

Pause helps organisations set up transparent leave policies (including sabbaticals) and takes care of all time-off communication. You don’t need to worry about what is and isn’t allowed or fret about reminding your teammates that you’ll be on leave. Better planning benefits everyone, don’t you think?

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