5 Reasons Offering a Sabbatical Program Pays Off

March 5, 2018

Employee on Sabbatical Program

Looking for ways to become more competitive in attracting and retaining the best talent in today’s market without breaking the bank? Well, we have some good news for you: nearly 80% of today’s US employees value new or additional benefits over a pay increase. Getting creative with new benefits can set you apart from your competitors and you’ll hardly have to spend a dime. One of the best trending benefits that can save your company money and excite current and potential employees? Offering a sabbatical program.

Though it may initially sound counterintuitive, offering paid sabbatical can actually boost productivity and increase employee growth. According to the SHRM 2017 benefits report, 17% of companies are now offering both paid and unpaid sabbatical programs. Here are the highlights.

A Sabbatical Program…

1. Works as a Retention Tool:

Offering employees a 1 to 2-month sabbatical every 7 years can give employees something additional to work towards. It’s a reward that offers unique opportunities such as taking classes, traveling, or spending time with family.

This can be particularly effective with younger employees, new to the workforce. In this CareerBuilder survey, nearly half of employers (45%) expect recent college grads to stay less than two years. In fact, only 25% of employers expect those employees to stay at their company for 5 years or longer. However, Millennials (defined as those between the ages of 18 and 34) now comprise one-third of the workforce. So, how do you attract talent of this age and minimize turnover rates? Offer something they really want.

In a study conducted by the Allianz Longevity Project, nearly 70% of millennials (69%) said they would prefer to “explore, experiment, and travel” prior to retirement, which is higher than other generations. A Sabbatical will be particularly attractive to this subset of the workforce.

Related: An Over 30’s Guide to Recruiting Millennials

2. Prevents Burnout:

Going on a sabbatical can also go a long way to prevent employee burnout, an epidemic that experts claim is responsible for almost 50% of our annual workforce turnover. In the previously noted 2017 Kronos Inc. study, 95% of human resource leaders admit employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention.

A high employee turnover rate doesn’t only worsen employee morale, but it’s also hard to maintain productivity in a state of constant flux. Not to mention, the cost of onboarding new employees is more than you might expect.

Related: How much do hiring and onboarding cost?

Offering sabbaticals will keep your employees happy, refreshed, and productive.

3. Fosters Employee Growth:

At this point, we’ll address the most obvious question: why would I pay employees to not work? We get it– this doesn’t inherently seem like a cost-efficient benefit to offer. However, while employees on sabbatical won’t be doing work, it doesn’t mean that work won’t get done. When planned accordingly with managers and coworkers, all the responsibilities of the traveling employees will be appropriately syndicated among other employees.

A sabbatical program can turn into a unique opportunity, specifically amongst more junior employees who want to expand their skill sets and take on more responsibility in a monitored environment.

Think of it like trial period in which they’ll be able to expand their job responsibilities in a relatively controlled and temporary setting.

So– for no extra cost, younger employees gain a valuable opportunity and more senior employees get a chance to relax. Or spend time with family. Or take classes. Or travel to a new country. Or finally take that model ship painting workshop. You get the point.

4. Promotes Transparency:

It’s dangerous for an organization to depend too heavily on one single employee or small team. Operating in a system that allows employees to leave for extended periods of time requires workers to have a comprehensive understanding of all responsibilities. For other workers to appropriately assume responsibilities, the employee taking sabbatical will have to demonstrate how to complete different projects, how long specific tasks take, update all protocols, and so on.

This will promote a sense of radical transparency in the company, which will raise accountability between individual employees and boost productivity. Furthermore, the results from a 2013 TINYpulse study showed that transparency in the workplace was the number one factor contributing to employee happiness.

Happy employees are productive employees. Which brings us to…

5. Shows that your company values work-life balance:

Sure, companies love to claim that their company culture values a healthy work-life balance, but how many organizations actually create policies that support that claim? Offering a sabbatical program shows that you respect the personal lives of your employees as well as their general well being.

In a 2011 study on the effects of sabbaticals on helping professionals, a quantitative data analysis showed that the month-long sabbatical program decreased the level of burnout and increased the level of general health, organizational commitment, and sense of well-being.

Related: 10 Ways to Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Free lunches and gym memberships are great, but nothing can compete with time for personal growth or time spent with family. Increase employee morale while decreasing your benefits budget– and maybe you can squeeze a sabbatical in there too.


After working in the field of psychology research for years, Bella loves sharing what she's learned in a more directly impactful context. She's interested in the intersection of people and business, and wants to promote conversations about HR. She's an amateur ceramicist, pro dog walker, and produces podcasts on the side.

Category: HR Tips & Trends, Zenefits, Benefits, Featured

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