Somehow I thought “sabbatical” was paired with the word “year.” Silly me. Like many modern-day activities, most sabbatical leaves are squeezed into a tighter time frame.
The average for paid and unpaid sabbatical leaves is five weeks after five years of service, according to Age Wave researcher, Ken Dychtwald, in his book, The Power Years. With that updated reality in mind, I will navigate you toward getting approval of a request for a six-week sabbatical leave.
Practically speaking, you can adapt the strategies in my guide, How to Get Six Weeks Off to Travel, to request four to eight weeks off, but here are three reasons I recommend taking six weeks off.
Six weeks off allows you a full month at your sabbatical location, plus margins for travel time. In contrast, two or three weeks are over before you know it; you’ll be leaving just when you feel like you’re getting started.
Imagine the impact of being immersed in your personal project for a month or more. You can also schedule some buffer days upon your return, allowing you to reflect on your sabbatical experience. It’s wise to build in margin to make the emotional and physical adjustments required for reentry into your everyday world at home and at work.
You can present a six-week sabbatical as typical among employers (that have a policy) because it closely parallels the five-week average. Further, six weeks off is the minimum standard for women going on maternity leave (in the United States, that is), so many managers and coworkers are familiar with planned absences of that duration. From a negotiation standpoint, your proposed plan for work coverage during a short-term sabbatical leave can be positioned as analogous to a maternity leave.
A modest sabbatical of six weeks–in contrast with a serious sabbatical of six months or more–is short enough to dampen the threat of being dismissed from your job during your absence.
Unlike the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which offers job-protected leave, your sabbatical leave has no guarantee of job protection. You have to trust that your employer won’t dismiss you from your job during your extended absence. Get the terms of your sabbatical leave in a memo of agreement. Even so, nothing is guaranteed these days.*
* We’ve passed the era of “job security” so you should be prepared for job loss in any and all circumstances. But if you’re a valued employee with a record of five years or more with your current employer, taking six weeks off with plans to return to your job is not unreasonable.
Learn more about How to Get Six Weeks Off to Travel, a complete planning workbook and negotiation guide for getting management approval of a six-week sabbatical. Order and download it here.