Sabbaticals Might Be Your Employee Retention Secret

Generally when you hear the word “sabbatical” most people think of a college professor taking time off to do something intellectual that would then contribute to their ability to shape the minds of young people. If you search the word “sabbatical” it is actually defined by Google as “a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year.”

As it turns out educational institutions are not the only employers that offer sabbaticals. They are becoming more and more common across the board. Countless companies in industries such as banking and investments, technology, legal services, accounting, construction, insurance, media and so on, offer paid sabbaticals ranging in length from anywhere around a couple of weeks up to the traditional year and for an array of reasons.

A Solution for Burnout

In our current economy where employee burnout is becoming more and more prevalent, sabbaticals are becoming a more common solution for employees to combat it. A study released of 500 IT administrators, by Opinion Matters, showed 72% of the individuals polled were stressed as a result of their job, 67% had considered a career change, 85% said their work intruded on their personal life, and 42% had actually lost sleep over the stresses of their work. Statistics like this are never going to serve and employer well, no matter what the industry.

In many industries, employees are giving it all they’ve got, working extremely hard to manage and balance their professional and personal stresses and in many instances, they are not doing it very well. When their employers offer sabbaticals, it allows them the needed separation to do what they love. In many instances, sabbaticals may relate directly to an individual’s profession, though even if they don’t, when that person returns to work after their sabbatical, they are refreshed and revitalized and ready to start fresh on their work.

Benefits to the Employer

In a job market that is consistently becoming more and more competitive for employers, it is always good for companies to find ways to show just how much they genuinely value their employees. For many, offering sabbaticals is one of these ways.

Sabbaticals are not like vacation time in that, in most cases, they should not be offered to all employees, but more commonly used to reward top performing employees for their continuous hard work. These are the employees companies can’t afford to have disengaged from their work or disengaged with employer. When it comes to a high quality employee, the investment of sabbatical can prove far more cost effective and productive for the company in the long run.

Returning from a sabbatical should result in the employee being ready to hit the ground running with whatever new or refreshed outlook they gained while they were away. They are likely to be better engaged, having higher rates of productivity right out of the gate. The impact of a sabbatical should similar to a vacation, but to a much greater magnitude.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Jim Nelson says

    Jessica, my name is Jim Nelson, executive director for the Nevada Association of Employers. I like your blog on sabbaticals. May I ask your permission to reprint it in our monthly newsletters to members? If ok, please let me know how you’d like me to cite you as the author. Thanks, Jim Nelson

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for reaching out. I would ask that you include a snippet of the content (usually a paragraph) and link to the original blog post. This way people are re-directed to the site and can see me as the author. You can email me with more questions at jessica(at)blogging4jobs(dot)com.


  2. Tom Green says


    Thank you for your efforts to put this article together. It is timely for a company project and me personally.

    I will put your good information to use.

    Take care,


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