10 Reasons to Take An Unpaid or Paid Sabbatical  By

10 Reasons to Take An Unpaid or Paid Sabbatical

After working at the same job day in and day out for several years, people are inclined to become burnt out. Sometimes this gets to the point where you wake up every day just thinking about the moment you get home from work. Whatever the degree, burnout can really affect a person’s efficacy in their work and even their overall contentment in life.

To circumvent this, some fields of occupations will periodically offer their employees a paid sabbatical and more companies are open to employees taking an unpaid sabbatical. While we, SabbaticalHomes, started our website to serve the academic community, many of the benefits of taking time off apply to people in other careers too.

Traditionally sabbaticals were only found in academic teaching careers, but in today’s modern workforce anyone can take one. Individuals can lead the way in requesting their company to start such a program if it does not already exist.

What is a Sabbatical?

Sabbatical leave is a period of time in which an employee is no longer obligated to report to their employment, but remains an employee of the organization or company they are working for. Sabbaticals are more common in academic institutions, but the benefits to employees and productivity are starting to be recognized by companies of all kinds as well.

Examples of this include medical professors traveling and attending a medical convention or periodically joining a fellowship, archaeological professors taking time off to go on a dig, or even a professor spending a semester at another university to research in a new environment with different people.

Using this time away from your accustomed environment allows you the benefit of a very refreshing change of pace. Meeting new people, learning new perspectives, sharing ideas, and cultivating those ideas with the help of others will greatly help with your morale.

As educators and researchers, a striving for self-improvement is typical, inherently emphasized. If not for the sake of exploration, a sabbatical can still be very useful as a change of pace from the mundane, leaving you much more refreshed than before.

If you are considering taking a sabbatical leave, here are ten great reasons!

Related: Taking a Sabbatical? What you need to know.

1. An Exchange of IdeasAn Exchange of Ideas Image. Photo of making connections and networking.

With the explosive growth of the internet, the exchange of ideas has become incredibly easy, but especially at the pinnacle of higher education, there are still limitations to the people you can connect with.

Conferences can provide these opportunities for both academics and businesspeople but say you are a professor of economics and you want to bounce some ideas off of some of the people at the top of your field.

It is not as though you can simply call up Greg Mankiw (the premier economist of Harvard University) and ask for his opinion. To grant yourself the exception, you can take your sabbatical and teach a semester at Harvard, allowing you to be further inspired by ideas of the foremost people in your field.

Exchanging theories and ideas help to build a connection, which can be hard to do when you don’t have day to day contact. As a further benefit, there are plenty of ideas people have that do not get published that could be the spark of your next project or collaboration or company.

2. Networking

Obviously, not everyone will have the opportunity to teach at one of the most renowned institutions of the world, but networking with other people in your field is still necessary and useful whatever your career path.

Across all fields, it’s no surprise that LinkedIn now has 590 million users, with 260 million active users each month. Interestingly, over 70% of those users are outside the United States from LinkedIn by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts, omnicoreagency.com, 1/6/19.

The opportunity for networking during an unpaid or paid sabbatical is a valuable part of the experience. You can discover whether it makes more sense to do so through university connections, a research project or a website like LinkedIn or some combination of these.

We also receive regular feedback that many of our members find connections that surprise and delight them during their sabbatical, sometimes creating lifelong professional or personal relationships.

3. Travel / Life ExperiencesTravel / Life Experiences image. Photo of beach vacation on sabbatical.

It’s known that short vacations can give a boost in energy and allow you to recharge your batteries for work, but sometimes we need more than a quick break.

Many individuals become wrapped up in their careers, and forget that leisure is an important piece of happiness.

Although it may be difficult to deviate from a schedule that requires meticulous attention, it’s important to break away, and give your traditional schedule a rest. Traveling and seeing others’ lifestyles often is a great way to pick up on new things and make the changes you want to your own lifestyle.

An important part of a successful trip is finding the right place to stay. SabbaticalHomes helps you find a home during your travels within the academic community and throughout the world.

However, vacations or time off don’t necessarily need to be a great distance from your home base. Sabbaticals are focused on the amount of time you spend in a new place, versus the distance of the physical location.

Similar to a “staycation,” a well-considered unpaid or paid sabbatical could easily be enjoyed locally as long the focus is on new and innovative things that will stimulate and inspire you.

4. Personal Satisfaction / HappinessPersonal Satisfaction / Happiness Image. Photo of piggy-back-ride happiness.

A sabbatical can provide the time needed to reflect and re-connect with your personal life or professional goals not directly related to your job.

Sabbaticals are often used to complete career and educational goals that may have been put on the back burner due to overwhelming amounts of responsibility.

For some, a sabbatical is a wonderful opportunity to set a timeline for life milestones, such as promotions and retirement in the future. While most people apply their energy to managing the day-to-day with their career, they forget to plan for the future and this is an opportunity to do that.

For companies, sabbaticals can be a great investment in key personnel, counteract burn-out, or serve as an alternative to more traditional compensational packages.

The majority of those who take advantage of a sabbatical often return back to the workplace with a fresh perspective and new and improved work ethic.

Workers who have a positive outlook with their daily career leads to higher levels of overall happiness, and higher quality production of work.

Sabbaticals are also a great way to reward a tenured employee for years of commitment to the organization to keep their personal satisfaction at a high level.

Related: Home Exchange Tips from TransitionsAbroad.com

5. Improve Your Overall HealthImprove Your Overall Health Image. Photo of woman standing.

Stress is a measure of your mental and physical resistance to circumstances beyond your control.

Stressors are threats, demands, or changes to which you attach special, significant importance, and with which you may struggle or feel uncertainty.

Both mental and physical health can be greatly affected by a career path that causes large amounts of stress. Some of the physiological changes produce increased heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and muscle tension that serve to supply adequate blood to your brain and heart.

Long term stress can take a toll on your nervous system through a cyclic adrenaline rush. Can stress in a workplace kill you? Absolutely, acute stress is the leading cause of sudden death, especially in young people who have no evidence of coronary problems.

The famous saying “health is wealth” becomes more accurate as humans push themselves to the limit within their career and life choices. In some situations, taking a sabbatical leave can be the impetus towards taking care of your health and build better habits that will last the rest of your life.

6. Time To Build a New Skill / Progress on Current OnesTime To Build a New Skill / Progress on Current Ones Image. Building new skills.

Leaders who take a learning sabbatical often gain greater strategic focus, in addition to enjoying the satisfaction of accomplishing something new and challenging.

Sabbaticals are all about abandoning traditional routines and trying out new ways of being innovative. Taking time away from work can lead to boosts in creativity, productivity, and engagement.

As an added benefit, many CEOs and executive directors report that during their unpaid or paid sabbatical leave, their executive teams grow considerably by taking on new tasks, developing new skills, and having to rely on each other without the boss there.

7. Decrease Teacher Burnout and AttritionDecrease Teacher Burnout and Attrition Image. Teacher attrition- photo of teacher/professor in classroom lecture.

In the European Union, sabbatical leave has become increasingly more used amongst educators teaching all ages, not just those in higher academia. The initiating ideology of implementing sabbaticals was oriented around the goal of better retention of educators and to address the stressors of a life in academia.

In the United States, teacher attrition has become a very costly problem. Growing up, many of us have had a teacher who we secretly thought was not a particularly great teacher.  Sometimes the daily demands of the job wear the best of us down.

Taking a sabbatical has been shown to significantly delay and prevent educators from leaving the field. It can be a game-changer, often allowing educators to return to their jobs feeling like they are starting a brand-new job, rejuvenated and with the youthful ambitions of a freshly graduated teacher.

Teachers whose schools or districts do not provide paid sabbaticals may be able to make a financial plan over several years to save in advance of their sabbatical.

SabbaticalHomes.com has many resources with ideas of how to minimize living expenses by setting up a home exchange or renting out their permanent homes to generate income while on sabbatical. Even working in a different type of job in another state or country could be a refreshing change. 

8. Time to Discover Other Cultures and Their Work Styles Time to Discover Other Cultures and Their Work Styles Image. Discover other cultures- photo of hot-air balloons.

It’s not easy to step out of your comfort zone, in fact, it’s pretty scary. At the same time, you’ll experience and learn amazing things; both about yourself and the world around you. 

Sabbaticals can offer the experience of stepping into a whole new world. You have the potential to be exposed to different languages, foods, architecture, cultures, and the opportunity to meet other amazing people. 

For some individuals, time away from work can provide a new and different perspective on the importance of work and career growth. People may choose to switch to a career that is less demanding to their time and energy, even if this entails less income. 

Traveling to new places and seeing how others work and live can give us something to compare our own experiences to, and sometimes can inspire making a change to improve our own situations once back at home. 

Related: How to Apply for a Scholar Visa to the U.S.

9. Rejuvenate Your Perspective on Your Career Rejuvenate Your Perspective on Your Career Image. Better than quitting- photo of meeting.

A sabbatical is an extended break from your job that can also deter you from wanting to quit and move on completely.  

This time off can be used to accomplish many productive things such as enhancing academic qualifications, reflect on accomplishment and avoid professional burnout. 

This is unlike a vacation, which is typically short term ranging from a month to a few days. The duration of a sabbatical can vary, but typically one year is what people use to accomplish the goals and have a proper amount of time of mental rest. 

A sabbatical offers much more than a year of catching on your favorite television shows, another primary benefit would allow you to explore new career opportunities. 

Maybe there is a path in your career you never thought of, for example, you have been a high school teacher for 20 years, and now you want to become a college professor. Or there is an area of your profession that you haven’t ever had the time to explore. 

A sabbatical could be time to delve into how to do that or get a jump start on a master’s degree that will be the first step in that transition.

Related: How to get started with SabbaticalHomes

10. Change in Perspective / Common Myths About SabbaticalsChange in Perspective / Common Myths About Sabbaticals Image. Photo that says "change"- change of perspective.

Many people think that you need to be at a certain level in your career or age to take a sabbatical. 

This is because there are many myths surrounding sabbaticals. You don’t have to be in the corner office to take and benefit from a sabbatical. 

You could try a 40-hour sabbatical, or just take a traditional old-fashioned vacation to recharge and gain some perspective. 

One of the best times to consider taking a break is actually when you’re very busy. Especially when you need an extra boost of clarity and creativity. Your sabbatical activities don’t need to be directly related to your job, and sometimes doing something different can help you consider your job or life from another angle. 

If you’re a teacher, you don’t need to take time off to volunteer with teaching kids. You can go travel the world, take culinary classes, take up music more seriously or anything else.


The term sabbatical is actually derived from the biblical Sabbath which serves an ancient human need to build periods of rest and rejuvenation into a lifetime.

People generally take sabbaticals to fulfill a goal, build a skill, or do research. You don’t necessarily have to stay near your home to do these things; you can easily travel the world to accomplish your goals; the key is to get away, renew, and refresh.

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