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Offering sabbaticals? Create a sabbatical program (not just a policy)

If you're giving your employees the gift of a sabbatical, don't forget to wrap it!

There are so many companies that have a sabbatical policy or a policy for extended leave buried in their employee agreements, somewhere deep within the company intranet. No one knows about it, no one uses it and no one benefits from it – employees or the company.

There’s a better way – support the policy with a strong sabbatical program.

But what’s the difference? What’s a sabbatical policy vs program?

Glad you asked…

A sabbatical policy sets out the rules, conditions, and eligibility for the sabbatical leave. It documents how long an employee needs to be with the company before they can take a sabbatical, how long the sabbatical is, what happens to pay and benefits while people are on sabbatical and other conditions that apply.

A sabbatical program creates the culture and support to communicate the sabbatical benefit and ensure people use it. The program launches and positions sabbaticals within the company. It communicates the high-level who/what/when of the policy, gives people guidance on how to make the most of their sabbatical and creates a culture that celebrates people taking sabbaticals.

Think of it like giving someone a gift voucher. The sabbatical policy describes what someone can do with the gift voucher. Where it’s valid, how much it’s worth etc. Simply giving someone a gift voucher doesn’t mean they’ll actually use it or get the benefit from it. Perhaps they didn’t know they were entitled to a gift voucher, forgot to use it or were too busy to go to the shops.

Now think of a sabbatical program as creating a ritual like Christmas around the giving of gift vouchers. People know what Christmas is. They look forward to it. They know they’ll get their gift voucher so they’re already planning what they’ll do with it and they’re more likely to use it. After they’ve used their gift voucher, they’ll come back and tell other people about it and encourage others to use theirs.

If you want to successfully launch sabbaticals in your company, then creating your policy is an important step, but only half the job. What’s important is that you wrap your policy with the communications, guidance and ongoing support that will mean sabbaticals are embedded in your culture as a wellbeing benefit people actually use. Without a program, sabbaticals simply won’t be used as often and both employees and the company won’t benefit from improved engagement, productivity and morale.

Stay tuned for more articles on how to create a winning sabbatical program that delivers real benefits for employees and companies. Feel free to connect with me or follow Beyond a Break to see more sabbatical guidance, tips and tools.

Beyond a Break is recharging people and organisations using the power of sabbaticals to boost wellbeing – consulting, coaching, workshops, tools.


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