• Lyndall Farley

3 reasons to negotiate your sabbatical now

When business is booming, power is with the employee. There’s never been a better time to negotiate a sabbatical.

We’re in a sabbatical negotiation golden bubble. And while we have the power to take time out, few of us do.

A sabbatical gives you a couple of months to recharge and refocus on what’s important to you. I’ve taken 10 sabbaticals and each time, I’ve transformed my life and achieved some big goals. I’m always asked about the “right time” to take one. My answer is always “as soon as you can!”. But the real answer is actually even more urgent. The answer is right now!

Right now, we’re in a unique position. The economy is strong and power is with the employee. That means negotiating for a sabbatical is easier than ever before and here’s why

1. Your company can probably afford it

Last year, economic growth rose in every big advanced economy except Britain[1] and well…. Brexit. Business is booming. If your company is doing things right, they can afford to let you take a break for a few months, then come back refreshed and bursting with revenue-generating ideas.

2. You have the power

Demand for skilled workers is at an all-time high. Any executive will tell you how hard it is to attract and keep talent at the moment. In America, unemployment is at its lowest since 1969[1]. Power is firmly back in the hands of the employee to negotiate for what they want. 80% of workers say they would prefer increased benefits to pay increases[2]. If a company has the choice to pay you more or give you time off, they’ll usually choose the latter.

3. They can’t afford to lose you

If you’re good at your job (frankly, even if you’re average) you have a unique negotiating position. It is quite literally cheaper to allow you to go on a sabbatical and come back in a few months than it would be to hire and train someone new. If a highly skilled employee leaves, it can cost a company up to double their annual salary to replace them[3]. If they have to choose between losing you altogether or losing you for a few months — it’s a no-brainer.

The bad news is this powerful sabbatical negotiating bubble won’t last forever. Another recession is coming. It’s inevitable. If you take the commonly held view that recessions cycle around every 7 years, then we’re overdue. As soon as that happens, the power to the people disappears.

But it’s not all bad — in the middle of the last recession, 15% of companies globally were utilizing or considering voluntary unpaid sabbaticals[4] for employees. With the rise of flexible working and a greater focus on work-life balance, I’d expect even more companies in our next downturn to utilize this great way to reduce cost while retaining talent.

I’ve negotiated and taken sabbaticals over the last 15 years, though upturns and downturns, within roles and jumping between roles. And when I look at the negotiating position employees are in right now, it’s never been stronger. There’s no question that the time to take a sabbatical is right now.

The only remaining question is…. When will you take yours?


[1] The Economist, “The Next Recession” 11 Oct 2018

[2] Glassdoor “50 HR and Recruiting Statistics for 2017”

[3] Huffington Post “How much does employee turnover really cost”, 19 Jan 2017

[4] Hay Group “Compensation in a downturn” 16 Jun 2009