When was the last time you stopped everything you were doing and sat in your own presence with zero — yes ZERO — interruptions?
In our busy, fast-paced society, it’s easy to forget we’re human beings and not robots taking on every and all tasks no matter the situation.
We have late nights pulling last-minute budget proposals together, we’re constantly responding to those urgent email requests from our CIO over the weekend instead of spending time with family, and we answer client phone calls at any hour of the day regardless of what is going on in our lives.
That’s a lot of work and very little time for YOU — and it’s a persistent problem for most Americans.
Compared to 38 other countries, the United States comes in at number 30 for work-life balance, according to Family Living Today.
Of employed adults surveyed, 33 percent say they work on the weekends and holidays, nearly 12 percent say they work 50 or more hours per week, and 57 percent say technology has ruined the modern-day family dinner.
You’d think all of this extra work would mean we’ve got the most productive, accomplished workers in the world, and yet that couldn’t be farther from reality.
In the same survey, 60 percent of employees say because of this poor work-life balance culture, they’ve experienced poor morale at the office, while 36 percent say it has caused poorer productivity and 41 say they have seen higher turnover and burnout within their organizations.
The obvious solution to rebalancing life and work is to make it a more even playing field. There are countless ways businesses can go about this, including encouraging fun in the workplace, as well as assessing workloads and employee capacity, but one way that employees have been begging from companies is sabbaticals.
Now, before you jump at the idea of allowing your employees to up and leave the company for a few months and think I’m crazy for suggesting this will lead you to higher profits and productivity, let’s look at some statistics:
- 75 percent of employed Americans say they would like to take an extended break
- 53 percent say they’d like the opportunity of an extended break to escape the stress of their work life
- 43 percent say they believe that taking a sabbatical would make them more employable
- 37 percent say they feel a sabbatical would make them more confident at work
Sabbaticals are clearly a highly sought-after perk in the workplace to foster a better work-life balance.
Yet, there’s a disconnect in organizations providing this solution — according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 13 percent of companies offer an unpaid sabbatical, while only 5 percent of companies offer paid sabbaticals.
So, what gives? What is standing in the way?
Let’s look at the common fears surrounding this offer, and then we’ll tell you reasons to overcome them.
Reduced Productivity: Often, employers wonder how they will cover someone’s responsibilities if they are out of the office for an extended amount of time. If you haven’t built a strong bench and delegated effectively, then productivity will most likely suffer. Which leads right into our next fear…
Cost: A day off with pay is one of the costliest benefits an employer can provide. Not only are you continuing benefits and pay (for companies offering paid sabbaticals), but you may also incur expenses to hire temporary workers and/or deal with the effects of a downturn in productivity.
They Won’t Come Back: Many employers fear that their employees simply won’t return to their jobs if given time and space to evaluate their current situation. This is the most commonly cited reason employers withhold this perk.
Now, let’s look at the flip side – the top 5 reasons why sabbaticals can be a KEY benefit to not only your employees but also your company’s bottom line.
- Increased Productivity Interestingly enough, our first reason why sabbaticals are a great benefit for companies is actually one of the common fears of not offering the perk we called out above.Instead of focusing on the fear of how you will cover someone’s responsibilities when they are out of the office, think about this: Employees returning from sabbatical are often recharged and re-invigorated. Having a steady stream of personnel coming in with renewed vigor and enthusiasm for their jobs and their company spells increased productivity.
- Team Development Sabbaticals offer a prime opportunity for employers to develop their bench if they haven’t been doing so already.If you are leading your team effectively, any employee should be able to walk away from their job having the personnel ready and able to assume responsibility.It’s not only an essential key to leadership development, but it also provides the other team members with the valuable experience of learning about the business by filling in the gaps.
If leveraged properly, this is on-the-job training at its best and there is no loss of productivity.
- Fresh Perspective Some companies recognize the value in new perspectives. By cleverly devising policies around inviting new-hires to as many strategic meetings within their first six months on the job as possible, organizations get their ideas and feedback before they become part of the more limited group think. Offering long-time employees sabbatical can reintroduce this much-needed fresh perspective providing a “best of both worlds” scenario where someone intimately familiar with your company can provide ideas typically only gained from highly paid consultants.
- Retention With the cost of replacing a manager averaging 150 percent of their salary (not to mention time and institutional knowledge lost), turnover can be HUGE to an organization’s bottom line.In the end, it’s a fairly simple equation: The cost of keeping someone happy is a heck of a lot less than replacing them. Given that sabbaticals are so coveted, this is a no-brainer.
- Recruiting Who doesn’t want to work for a company who clearly shows they care about their employees’ happiness?Often, added benefits and perks provide the choice point between a sought-after recruit choosing your company or the competition. Remember that statistic from earlier — 13 percent of companies offer an unpaid sabbatical, while only 5 percent of companies offer paid sabbaticals.Employees will be attracted to your company if you show you are willing to go above and beyond to provide them the perks (like paid sabbaticals) they desire.
All in all, providing sabbaticals is a great idea for employers looking to develop, retain, and recruit the best employees while creating a culture rich in energy, appreciation, and productivity.