Before you take a sabbatical, make sure you know what you are in for. This post covers everything you need to know before taking your first sabbatical.

Sabbaticals, also known as leave of absence, are getting more popular amongst employers that see the benefits of letting employees take some time off. After all, it is a win-win deal.

Your employer wants to have a lower turnover of employees and a revived and energetic workforce. There are plenty of reasons why employee time off can boost the performance of a company.

For you personally, a sabbatical is a great means for taking a break from your current job to focus on something that you normally do not have enough time for. It can improve your career prospect in the future in several ways, discussed in details over here.

The reasons for taking a sabbatical are vast. Some people choose to pursue a hobby in more depth, some might use the time to take care of a family member, while others choose to go on an adventure. 

Whichever reason it is that draws you to consider a sabbatical, there are a few things you need to consider before you approach your employer. In our post How to Get an 18 Months Sabbatical we tell you how to increase your chances of getting your sabbatical approved.

Here are 5 things you should consider before starting your path towards a sabbatical.

1 There’s no perfect time, but avoid the worst time 

When is the best time for taking a sabbatical?

While we often say that there is no perfect time, you can still avoid hitting the worst possible timing. Choosing the right timing is two sided. You need to think of your employer as well as yourself.

Think of what is currently going on at your work. Are there any projects or tasks that are heavily relaying on you? 

Your employer will need some time to fill in the gap when you are away. It is important that you are considerate of that, since your employer will need to support your time off. Moreover, you want to come back to work into a pleasant work environment after your leave of absence. 

Plan the sabbatical period well ahead, and preferably together with your employer. That way you can both agree on a  reasonable moment for you to leave. Be firm that you want a clear date, as your employer might want to keep it vague until they have more certainty of your replacement. 

For yourself, consider all professional and personal factors that are in play. Think about any engagements with family or friends. If you are soon expecting a promotion or just had a promotion, take that into consideration. 

A promotion might take more time to achieve when you are back, so if you are very close to getting it, it might be a good idea to stick around for a few more months. Nonetheless, do not ask for a sabbatical right after you get a promotion either. While for you it might seem like you crossed the finish line to the next level, your employer has promoted you with certain expectations and is counting on you to take up that responsibility. 

2 Arrange your finances

Depending on the length of your sabbatical and your company policy, your employer might or might not pay you a portion of your salary during the sabbatical period.

If your employer decides to pay you a portion of your salary during your sabbatical, they do expect you to really come back to work after. There may be a clause in your sabbatical agreement stating that you commit to working an x amount of months after returning from your leave.

Even when it is not stated in your sabbatical agreement, the employer would definitely expect that you come back after paying you for taking time off. Be considerate of this fact as you do not want to burn any bridges and leave on bad terms. 

In most cases, an employer would opt for an unpaid leave of absence. This means that you will need to finance your time off with your own means. You may do this through savings or have sources of passive income in place. It is crucial that you plan some budget and sufficient buffer to keep you afloat. 

Your financing budget depends on what you plan to do during that time. If you plan to travel the world, we have written posts on how much money you need to travel the world and the 4 most popular ways people finance their world trip. If you decide to stay at home to focus on a  hobby, your expense estimate should be similar to your usual monthly cost of living.

Working at another job during your sabbatical might be an option, but you have to make sure it is allowed. See the next point for more info. 

3 You might not be allowed to work during the sabbatical

Whether it is a paid or unpaid leave you are offered, you will most likely need a permission from your employer if you plan to work at another institution during your time off. Most employers would have a clause stating the conditions and other details in the sabbatical agreement. 

If your intention is to try another field of work or work while travelling, make sure that you understand the conditions set by your employer very well before taking your sabbatical. While being on a sabbatical, you are officially still employed by your employer. Therefore it makes sense that they want to be informed if you decide to work elsewhere during your leave of absence. 

For doing some side jobs while travelling, most employers would easily grant the permission. However, if you decide to work for the competition or a client of your employer or start a new freelance career, then a sabbatical might not be your best choice. 

Check your options thoroughly with your manager or HR before choosing to pursue the sabbatical path. Being transparent about your intentions will lead you to the best solution. 

4 Your additional work benefits will be taken away

Your employer might be paying your health insurance, car, phone subscription, and many other benefits. In most cases, especially if you do not get paid during the sabbatical, they will revoke those benefits. 

Make sure to do the research and understand the impact that revoking these benefits would have on you. Think of the financial implications it will have and add those expenses to your budget. Consider giving some of those benefits up. You don’t need a car while traveling on a different continent for example.

5 There’s a limited frequency for taking sabbaticals

Employers often require you to have been working at their company for a minimum length of time before asking for the first sabbatical. This might be a period of anywhere between 2 to 6 years, depending on your position and company policy. 

After you take your first sabbatical and return to work, there will be a period of time of 2 to 6 years before you can take another sabbatical. Referring back to the first point of this post, do consider the timing. 

There will be an opportunity to take another sabbatical, however, you will have to return and prove again to your employer that you are worthy. 

Do your homework before taking a sabbatical

Thinking about the above 5 points will help you decide whether a sabbatical is the best choice for you. Take into account what you plan to do with the time off and make sure you understand the company policy and agreement you will have.

It is best to know spend some time researching and thinking before taking a sabbatical, than having a bad surprise later.

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