Job sabbaticals growing in popularity


Brian David Johnson is a futurist. His job is to help predict what technology will be like a decade from now. But he recently took a few months off to focus on the here and now.

"When you spend that much time focusing on your mental health, your physical health and intellectual health, you come back as a changed person," Johnson said.

Johnson is among a growing number of professionals with the opportunity to spend time on sabbatical, taking anywhere from six weeks to a year off to travel, volunteer, or fulfill a life goal.

Human resource consultant Dan Ryan says sabbaticals are growing in popularity, partly because expectations on the job have intensified.

"The pace of work now, especially after the economic downturn, is very frantic, and the sabbatical is a very innovative way for companies to hang on and keep some of the really prized individuals, the ones who really make a difference," Ryan said.

Workers who take this extended leave typically have to meet certain requirements, like being employed a set number of years or doing something specific, like volunteering.

But what if your company doesn't offer the option and you're burned out or just looking for a break? Elizabeth McGuire, of your sabbatical.Com, suggests you negotiate it.

"Why would giving you time off benefit your team and your boss? You have to really spell that out. How is your work going to be done while you're gone? Put that into a proposal," McGuire said.

And if the cost of unpaid leave seems unattainable, McGuire says it's a matter of planning ahead and adjusting your expenses.

"You have to plan for it. It generally takes one to three years," McGuire said.

Johnson, who spent a year planning for his break, used his time away to write books.

"It allowed me to sort of get out of the mind set of corporate America and actually delve into more creative projects," he said.

Experts say often the decision to take an extended break isn't about money, but about time to recharge.

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