Sabbaticals are a great way for employees to reset, recharge and even upskill every few years. Most people take a few weeks of vacation time every year, but a sabbatical is a longer break from professional work that typically lasts up to a year. You can use your sabbatical to do almost anything – travel, get a diploma, write a book, volunteer, or just spend more time with your family. A long break from work can offer fresh perspective and get creative juices flowing, but before you submit your application, here’s what you can do to prepare.

Determine the length and purpose of your sabbatical

The first step in preparing for a sabbatical is to decide on the length of time that you would like to take off. Many companies that offer sabbaticals have a set policy regarding length, but you may have some leeway, particularly if you choose to combine it with vacation or another type of leave. Once you have decided on the length of your sabbatical, you will need to start planning how you will use your time.

Before you take a sabbatical, sit down and define your goals. What do you hope to accomplish during your time off? Do you want to travel, learn a new skill, or simply relax? Once you have a clear idea of your goals, you will be better able to plan your sabbatical and make the most of your time off.

Check the company policy on sabbaticals

Most companies have certain rules regarding sabbaticals. For instance, you may be eligible for no more than eight months of time off, or sabbaticals may only be available to employees who have served in the company for five years or more. It’s a good idea to understand the company policy on sabbaticals before applying. Company policies also differ when it comes to salary payouts. Some companies offer only unpaid sabbaticals; others may continue to pay your full salary or a percentage.

Remember that your company may look more favorably on your sabbatical request if you’re working on something that contributes to your career and professional goals. This could be upskilling, getting a degree, working on new research, or even using your subject matter expertise to write a book.

Create a budget

If your income is changing during your sabbatical, it’s important to ensure that you can cover your expenses during your break – especially if you’re planning to travel or take up an activity that requires investment.

You may decide to create a separate budget for this period based on your sabbatical plans. Along with your daily activities, your spending habits will likely change. In addition to monthly grocery, transportation, rent, and utility expenses, budgets may include whole life insurance or other life insurance premiums, if applicable, as well as health insurance premiums, investments, savings, and more.

Notify your employer

When taking a sabbatical, it’s best practice to give your employer as much notice as possible so they can make arrangements for someone to cover your duties while you are away. If a temporary replacement is being hired, you may decide to offer to help out with the hiring process, training, and handover. Your manager may ask you to write down detailed instructions so your team understands what’s expected of them in your absence.

Last, clearly state your availability during the sabbatical. Some people are open to taking the occasional work call or making key decisions when needed. Others may only want to be contacted in emergencies or not at all. Either stance is acceptable as long as you and your team or manager are on the same page.

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