How to make your company sabbatical program a success
Do you have a sabbatical policy for your company, but wonder why no one uses it?
Are you interested in the power of sabbaticals but don’t know how to implement them successfully?
There is a huge difference between having a sabbatical policy document that no one knows about, and launching a sabbatical program that encourages people to take sabbaticals to recharge and proactively look after their own wellbeing.
But what makes a sabbatical program a success? Here are five “must have” elements for a thriving sabbatical program.
1. Leadership support
Before you even start building your program, ensure leadership are on board and support the program. Without leaders setting the tone at the top, the messages of support won’t trickle down to employees. It’s entirely possible to have a company with a sabbatical policy that in practice, no one uses because employees don’t see that management will support them if they ask for a sabbatical. The best form of support is, of course, a senior leader taking a sabbatical and telling their story. Nothing says support like walking the talk!
Leadership also need to be visible in their support for people taking sabbaticals and in the way they talk about sabbaticals in the organisation. Make sure you’ve prepared your leaders with some key talking points about why you’re launching a sabbatical program and why they believe in it.
I always say… communicate, communicate, communicate… then communicate some more. In our distracted world, people have about a millisecond of attention that’s given to a message. You need to be clear, compelling and tell a story that resonates with them. Communicating about your sabbatical program is no different. Tell them the ‘why’. Tell them why your company is investing in sabbaticals. (If you’re not sure – check out all these benefits). Tell them why sabbaticals beneficial as well as how and when they can do it. Address their fears – will their job be there when they return? (Yes!) Will they miss out on promotions? (No!) Will their manager support it? (Yes!) Inspire them with stories and benefits.
Communicating about the program, inspiring people and speaking directly to employees needs and fears is the key to cutting through the internal communications overload.
3. Provide guidance
Telling someone the rules and conditions of the sabbatical is not enough. Employees need tools, tips and guidance on how to make a sabbatical a reality and how to fit it into their life and work. Provide guidance on deciding if a sabbatical is right for them, designing the best experience, planning their work coverage, how to disconnect and how to smoothly return and integrate what they’ve learnt. This will help the employee get the most out of the experience. Good planning also de-risks the process for the company and helps to ensure that employees return, stay and thrive. Check out the Beyond a Break Sabbatical Toolkit which guides people across the whole journey. Companies can leverage these materials and upload to their own intranet space – get in touch to discuss pricing.
4. Create a community
The best advocates for your sabbatical program will be the people who’ve benefited from them! Create a community of people who’ve returned from sabbatical and those who are interested in going. This can be as simple as a group on your internal communication platform (Slack, Yammer etc) or adding stories to regular companywide communications. Ask sabbatical returnees to write about their experience share their stories to inspire others. Nothing helps someone overcome their fears about taking a sabbatical than hearing about someone ‘just like them’ who has walked the path before.
People talking about how great sabbaticals are and how great your company is for offering them, is the best way to get sabbaticals embedded into your company as something that’s normal, supported and often used.
5. Measure success
Measuring whether sabbaticals are really contributing to the improved wellbeing of your employees is the absolute bottom line. If it’s not doing that, then why would you continue. It’s critical that you measure the success of what you’re doing. Yes, I know. This one is hard. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. There are two ways to measure this. Explicitly measuring the before/after wellbeing using a questionnaire. Or measuring indicators like burnout rates, attrition, engagement. It’s also powerful to couple any quantitative measurement with qualitative data – Ask people about the benefits the sabbatical brought to their career, life, wellbeing. Trust me – there will be some powerful stuff in there!
By doing the above five things well, you’ll take sabbaticals from being an unknown or underutilised benefit to a powerful wellbeing booster for your company and employees.
Want help? Of course! That’s what Beyond a Break is all about. We can support you to make sabbaticals a success in your company. We offer program design and implementation consultation, sabbatical and wellbeing workshops, the employee sabbatical toolkit and employee sabbatical coaching.
Get in touch to discuss how we can help you bring sabbaticals to life in your company
Beyond a Break uses the power of sabbaticals to help people and organisations recharge and thrive.