With workplace happiness taking center stage in recent years, companies are increasingly open to the idea of employees taking a career break. Once considered a no-no, employers now recognise the benefits of taking a sabbatical and pressing the reset button.
There are lots of valid reasons for a career break that benefit both you and your employer, but that doesn’t make the actual request any less daunting. Before you approach your boss to discuss taking a sabbatical, it’s worth taking some time to contemplate how the time off could help you – and also what it might offer to your organisation.
The first step to a good career break negotiation is to flip the perspective away from you. You’re selling the “what’s in it for them” angle. “Step into your boss’ shoes and think about what might personally persuade them,” says Karen Meager, managing director of career coaching company Monkey Puzzle Training.
“This is particularly true if you have plans to do something specific rather than just have time off. For example, if you are learning a new skill that would enhance your ability to perform your role,” she says.
Taking the hassle out of a potential career break is also a good move. Think about who might cover you, and how projects will be completed while you’re away. In other words, preempt any concerns your boss may raise.
But however you pitch it, there are a number of reasons why your work may agree to time out regardless. It doesn’t matter where you’re going or why, there are universal truths across the board that would compel your company to say “yes”. So hold your head high and go in strong, armed with the following knowledge.
Taking a career break is only temporary
After you’ve been with your work for a year or so, you start to build a trusting relationship. You and your employer develop give-and-take. “If you want to stay at your work, bear in mind that you have a history – and with history brings certain privileges,” says Alice Weightman, CEO and founder of freelancer start-up The Work Crowd and executive search consultancy Hanson Search. “Your employer trusts you. If you’re good, they won’t want to lose you.”
“Smarter businesses are increasingly offering sabbaticals rather than lose great people,” Alice adds. “They want to keep and nurture great talent. I’ve seen more and more employers offer sabbaticals as an employee benefit that you can take up after three or five years’ employment. This is testament to a new approach towards career breaks. They’re saying, ‘We recognise you have a life and we want to keep you long-term’,” she explains.
Taking a career break helps to manage stress
With workplace stress on the rise, companies are increasingly looking at ways to promote wellbeing, rather than risk the financial hit of sick leave or people quitting altogether. Not only is this a smart practical approach but it also nurtures goodwill.
“It’s not unusual to experience stress and even burnout,” says Jane Sunley, chairman and founder of employee engagement consultancy Purple Cubed. “So whilst career breaks can be used as a reward for loyal and productive service, they can also allow a stressed-out team member to recharge and reflect, returning in a more positive frame of mind.”
“Work-life balance is a key issue for today’s employee,” she continues. If your employer is willing to accommodate this, you will inevitably feel more loyal, trusted and rewarded. People taking time out often return refreshed and re-engaged.”
Taking a career break keeps you motivated
If you’re good at your job, it makes sense that your work will want to keep you. As long as you time it right, any short-term disruption your career break causes will be easily outweighed by the benefits you bring to your team and the company overall.
“Most forward-thinking companies would embrace the idea of a career break,” says Alice. “If you’re in demand, they’ll want to keep you. And they want to show that they care. Not having you for short-term time is worth the long-term benefit of you staying fresh, motivated and valued.”
But bear in mind that feeling demotivated alone is not a strong enough reason to request a career break. “Employers are more receptive to blending personal and professional lives,” says Corinne Mills, author of Career Coach and managing director at Personal Career Management. “The proviso is that you’re focused and up-to-speed on return. It’s not valid to say that you are just fed up and want a break – that might be true – but it won’t play well. It’s about showing purpose and energy.”
Taking a career break avoids the hassle of hiring new people
Career burnout is at an all-time high, with employees struggling to find the right work-life balance or simply needing to take time away from their job to destress. Taking a career break could be the difference between staying in your job long term or quitting to pursue something else.
Anyone who’s ever hired for a new role knows how much time and energy the process takes up. And that’s before you’ve even thought about the cost. Employers don’t want to hire new people if they can avoid it, which definitely works in your favor if you’re considering taking a career break.
The average cost per hire is £3,800, and it takes three to eight months for a new hire to become fully productive. With this in mind, it’s much cheaper and easier to give a fully trained employee a career break than to deal with the hassle of hiring a replacement. Then there’s also the culture fit, something that’s key to workplace happiness and performance but also frustratingly difficult to get right.
Clearly, there’s a strong incentive for your work to keep you in place if they can. This is especially true if you can put forward an argument for mitigating costs while you’re away, such as offering a junior member of the team more responsibility, rather than hiring temporary cover. “It’s so much easier for your work to re-employ someone who knows the job, organisation and culture than to start over with someone new,” says Jane. “Ideally, try and compensate for your absence by reorganising your work or suggesting a temporary replacement.”
So, there you have it: four valid reasons for a career break that will encourage your boss to give the green light to your request for a time off. Now go forth and conquer the world.
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