How To Propose & Take A Sabbatical From Work

sabbatical from work
Image Credit: Elle Decor

The idea of taking a sabbatical from work can seem like it’s crazy. You’re too busy. You’re relied upon daily. How will the company operate without you?

However, research has shown why a sabbatical may be worth pursuing – for you and your company. Here’s a complete look at how to take a sabbatical from work, from the proposal to the preparation.

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The Statistical Case For Taking A Sabbatical

Sabbaticals are commonplace in academia – 85% of 450 universities surveyed by Sibson Consulting offered a full-year sabbatical to faculty. Yet, just 6% of 4,920 companies we studied at Buildremote offered sabbatical leave.

Universities figured out the value of sabbaticals years ago, but it’s just been a few decades since private companies have caught on. Finally in the 2020s, it seems like the number of companies offering sabbaticals is growing.

With just one small corner of the world truly embracing sabbaticals and a small amount of the corporate world using them, it’s no wonder there isn’t a ton of data about sabbaticals. But, here’s what we can statistically prove so far:

  • A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that employees who took sabbaticals reported lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction upon their return to work (Source:). Specifically, here’s what the study found:
    • Mean resource loss decreased during the sabbatical
    • Mean resource gain increased during the sabbatical
    • Stress declined during the sabbatical
    • Stress stayed significantly lower after the sabbatical as compared to before the sabbatical
  • A 2023 survey by the Harvard Business Review reported that 92% of managers noticed a significant increase in productivity and creativity among employees post-sabbatical.


Benefits Of A Sabbatical From Work

While the daily grind of professional life can be fulfilling, it often leaves little room for self-discovery, learning, and exploration outside the confines of work. This is where a sabbatical can play a transformative role. It’s not just a long vacation, but an opportunity to step away from the daily routines, reassess your priorities, and engage in activities that enrich your life personally and professionally.

Here are some of the key personal benefits of taking a sabbatical from work:

Strengthened Skills and Knowledge

Sabbaticals, particularly those used for educational purposes, can lead to the enhancement of skills and knowledge, benefiting both the employee and the organization.

Mental Health

Extended time off from work can help improve mental health by stepping away from daily stressors, patterns, and routines.

Physical Health

A sabbatical offers the opportunity to prioritize physical health, whether that means adopting healthier eating habits, starting a new fitness regime, or just getting more sleep.

Reduced Burnout and Stress

Sabbaticals provide employees with an extended break from their daily work tasks, which can significantly reduce job-related stress and prevent burnout.

Personal Development

This is a time for self-reflection and personal growth. It could involve pursuing a passion, learning a new hobby, volunteering, or traveling to gain new perspectives.

Work-Life Balance

A sabbatical allows you to spend quality time with loved ones, and to invest time in hobbies or personal interests that often get sidelined by work commitments.

See Also: Companies With The Best Work-Life Balance

Career Reevaluation

The break from daily work routines can provide perspective, allowing you to reassess your career path and to return or course-correct with renewed focus and clarity.

Creativity Boost

Stepping away from the regular work environment can ignite creativity and innovation, leading to fresh ideas and perspectives when you return to work.

Improved Productivity

Recharging during a sabbatical can increase energy levels and improve productivity upon return.

Opportunity for New Experiences and Perspectives

Sabbatical leaves can be used to travel, volunteer, or learn something new, providing employees with fresh experiences and perspectives.


Reasons To Take Sabbatical Leave

Here are some common reasons why people decide to take a sabbatical. In all of our research on sabbaticals, I’ve listed these in order of most common to least.


Universities are the most common industry for sabbaticals. Often, a professor will take a one-year sabbatical to work on a research project.


If you wish to give back to your community or a cause that’s important to you, a sabbatical allows you the time to engage deeply in volunteer work or philanthropy.

Professional Development

Sabbaticals can be a great time to gain new skills or qualifications that could contribute to your career growth. You might choose to pursue further education, attend training programs, or conduct research in your field of interest.


In our list of companies that offer sabbaticals, this is the most common reason for offering sabbaticals as a great employee benefit. It’s also a catch-all, so we moved it down the list.


A sabbatical can also be used for medical reasons, like going through treatment for an illness.

Family or Personal

You may have family responsibilities or personal obligations that require your full attention.


Many people dream of traveling extensively or living in another country to experience a new culture. A sabbatical can provide the time and flexibility to fulfill this dream.

Book Writing

If you’ve always wanted to write a book, create an art piece, or engage in any other creative endeavor, a sabbatical can offer the uninterrupted time you need to foster your creativity.

Passion Project

You might have a passion or hobby that you’ve been longing to delve deeper into but never had the time due to work commitments. A sabbatical provides the space to do just that.


How To Propose A Sabbatical To Your Company


My first and most important tip is to propose that the company creates a sabbatical program, not that you should personally go on a sabbatical. That approach will work better and is more likely to be approved. With that in mind, here are a few crucial steps to undertake.

1. Research the benefits (listed above in this article).

Educate yourself on the wider benefits of sabbaticals. Well, just scroll up in this article for a list of 10 benefits.

2. Check for existing policies.

Before you proceed, check if your company has an existing sabbatical policy. This might be documented in the company handbook or your job offer. If an official policy exists, it can guide you on the correct procedure to follow.

3. Find precedent.

If there’s no official policy, try to find out if there’s a precedent for sabbaticals in your company. Speak to HR or long-standing colleagues to find out if anyone has taken a sabbatical before and how it was managed.

4. Formulate a plan.

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, begin to formulate a pitch to implement a sabbatical program.

Prepare the Sabbatical Proposal

Once you’ve done your preliminary research and reflection, it’s time to prepare your sabbatical proposal:

5. Make the case.

Articulate the reasons and benefits for instituting a sabbatical program. Include any relevant data or statistics that underline its potential positive impact. Mention companies in similar industries that offer sabbatical programs and the benefits they’ve derived from them.

6. Draft the policy.

Describe the proposed sabbatical policy in detail. Specify whether it is paid or unpaid, how long it will last, eligibility criteria, whether it’s a one-time or recurring opportunity, and any specific types of sabbaticals the company should consider offering.

In this article, we provide 10 critical questions to answer to draft a sabbatical leave policy.

7. Get others on board.

Form a group of like-minded colleagues who are also interested in the idea of a sabbatical program. Present your case and policy to them, and discuss the best way to pitch it and to whom.

8. Plan for work coverage.

Outline a plan for how work will be covered during employees’ sabbaticals. Identify who will be responsible for ensuring tasks are completed and how that coverage will be delivered.

9. Build a counter.

Prepare for potential obstacles. Consider your response if the proposal is not accepted or if it’s acknowledged but no action is taken. Could you suggest a pilot program, or negotiate a shorter leave?

10. Book the first meeting.

Once your proposal is ready and you’ve anticipated potential hurdles, schedule a meeting with the relevant decision-maker in your organization. Go in ready to present your case confidently and answer any questions that arise.

A well-prepared proposal that considers all angles stands the best chance of success. You’re not just pitching time off work, but an investment in the best people at the company.


How To Take A Sabbatical (Once Approved)

Once you’ve successfully proposed and secured approval for your sabbatical, it’s time to prepare for this unique opportunity. Proper preparation involves both personal and professional aspects to ensure a smooth transition into and out of your sabbatical.

Prepare Personally For Your Sabbatical

  • Set clear goals: Define what you want to achieve during your sabbatical. Whether it’s learning a new skill, traveling, writing a book, or volunteering, having clear goals will help you make the most of your time.
  • Plan your budget: Calculate the cost of your sabbatical, considering factors like travel, education, or potential loss of income if your sabbatical is unpaid. Make necessary adjustments to your financial plan to ensure you can comfortably afford your time off.
  • Take care of logistics: Depending on your plans, you might need to arrange accommodation, transportation, or even language classes. Start this process early to avoid last-minute stress.
  • Make a plan for your health: Ensure you have a health plan in place, especially if you’re traveling. This may include health insurance, necessary vaccinations, or a supply of required medications.

Prepare Professionally For Your Sabbatical

  • Write out how work will be transferred: Plan how your responsibilities will be covered during your absence. This might involve training a colleague, hiring a temporary replacement, or reallocating tasks among your team.
  • Set communication expectations: Determine how often you’ll check-in with your team or manager during your sabbatical, if at all. Setting boundaries will help you disconnect fully during your time off while keeping your team informed.
  • Document your work: Document your workflows and processes so that your colleagues can refer to them in your absence. This will help maintain continuity and efficiency.
  • Plan your return: Set a plan for your return to work. When will you be back? What meetings need to be booked, and with whom? How will work be handed back over?

Taking a sabbatical is a significant life event that requires careful planning and consideration. By being thorough in your preparations, you can ensure that your time away is productive, rewarding, and beneficial to your overall well-being.

There is a great site specifically dedicated to sabbaticals called The Sabbatical Guide. I recommend reading their guide on how to plan a sabbatical for a deeper look.


What To Do On A Sabbatical

A sabbatical offers a unique opportunity to break from your routine and pursue something different. We covered all of the common reasons to take a sabbatical in an earlier section which overlaps with what you’d likely do on a sabbatical. So here is a brief list of options to purpose:

  • Develop a skill or hobby
  • Travel to places you can’t go with just a week off
  • Volunteer for a cause you support
  • Write a book
  • Work on a creative project like a sculpture or painting or a blog
  • Focus on your health and fitness
  • Educate yourself by getting a specific certification or diving deep on a certain topic
  • Start a side business
  • Focus on your spiritual side with meditation or a retreat of some kid
  • Spend time with family

Remember, a sabbatical is a personal journey, and what you choose to do should reflect your personal goals and aspirations. These are just a starting point to spark some ideas.


Find A Company That Offers Sabbaticals

While it’s possible to pitch a sabbatical at your current job, you might be interested in a more straightforward approach. Many progressive companies already recognize the benefits of sabbaticals and have established policies to support their employees in taking extended breaks.

If you’re looking to make a career move or are just starting in the workforce, you might want to consider companies that offer sabbaticals as part of their benefits package. These organizations understand the value of work-life balance and the advantages that sabbaticals can bring in terms of employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.

  • Adobe: 4 weeks after 5 years
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield: 4 weeks after 5 years
  • Bank of America: 4 weeks after 15 years
  • Charles Schwab: 28 days after 5 years
  • General Mills: 6 weeks after 4 years
  • Intel: 8 weeks after 7 years
  • McDonald’s: 8 weeks after 10 years
  • Microsoft: 8 weeks after 10 years
  • Nike: 5 week after 10 years
  • Shopify: 4 weeks after 5 years

View our entire list of companies that offer paid sabbaticals.

In your search, also consider companies that offer alternatives to traditional sabbaticals. For instance, some organizations, like HubSpot, offer a “week of rest” every year to their employees as a means of promoting wellness and preventing burnout. Others companies offer unlimited paid time off (PTO), which provides flexibility for employees to take time off as needed.


We’ve covered work sabbaticals in depth. Want to learn more about sabbatical leave from a different angle?

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