BY EVA BENOIT evabenoit.com
Taking a Sabbatical from Work: What You Need to Know
Taking a sabbatical from work was once synonymous with university professors and researchers, but times have changed and just about anyone can take one. Some are paid and some aren’t, and the length of time can vary, but taking a break from work is a big step. It is important that you understand it fully and prepare adequately before taking the leap.
There Are Plenty of Benefits
Sure, a break from work sounds like a huge benefit in itself, but a sabbatical offers so much more than that. For starters, a sabbatical can improve your health both physically and mentally; all those hours spent tirelessly working can take a toll. According to Ursula Mead, CEO of InHerSight, “The level of dedication that many people give at the office can mean sacrificing proper eating, sleeping and exercise practices.” You may also experience stress and teeter on the edge of burning out — a sabbatical can help you recharge. Time away can also inspire creativity and deep thinking, as well as boost your career should you take time to build your network, train, and explore work-related opportunities you are passionate about. This can also be a time to come to terms with reality, face up to work disappointments, and get a clear understanding of how you want your future to look. If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, perhaps you are worried about how it will look on your resume, or what your peers, family, and friends will think. Sabbaticals are common, and if everyone else can do it, so can you.
Crunch Every Number
Whether you use your sabbatical for travel, education, passion projects, or business, you’ll need a way to finance it. Outline a budget that includes how much you’ll need to cover everyday expenses (rent, food, bills, insurance), as well as funds for sabbatical activities. Have a backup plan of at least three to six months worth of savings, and understand that if things get too tight, a part-time job or returning early might be the best option to avoid financial breakdown.
Depending on what you’ll be doing during your time away, you could look into setting up your home as a rental property as an extra source of income, or take up a side gig such as dog walking. Explore all resources, which might include withdrawing money from your savings plan such as a tax-free savings account (TFSA) or registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). Your work may also offer a deferred salary leave plan (DSLP) in which you get paid less leading up to the sabbatical, with the difference going into the DSLP.
Make Travel Plans
Travel is something we all would love to do, but time is a significant factor. Take advantage of your break from work and see the world, take in the sights, and see the true beauty of nature — you don’t have to travel across the world to do it. Spend some time walking the coast and breathing in the salty air, or enjoy mountain views and hiking among the greenery. Find a way to stay active – your time off isn’t an excuse to completely sit back and do nothing. Sure, it’s fine to relax, but be sure to incorporate active activities as well. You just might find that yoga and kickboxing are the stress reliever and escape you’ve been looking for.
All this sounds fun, but if you’ll be away from home for several months or a year, you’ll need to make plans for children and pets. Will you homeschool or enroll them in a local school? How will you keep them connected to home? As for pets, if they can’t come with you, arrange for them to stay with a family member or friend, either in your home or theirs. Or, you can look online for a qualified pet sitter to take care of your best friend so you’ll know he or she is in capable hands.
In addition to taking care of your family and pets, you need to think about your home, especially if it will remain vacant during the length of your sabbatical. To prevent your property from becoming a target for burglars, consider setting your lamps to turn on at around the same time every night, which will give passersby the illusion that someone is home. And if you haven’t done so already, consider installing a home security system that allows you to remotely monitor your home using apps installed on your smartphone or tablet.
Taking a sabbatical can be just the breath of fresh air you need, but where do you begin? Put together a financial and travel plan so you know where you stand. Take a deep breath, approach your boss, and get the ball rolling.