A hammock covered with a white blanket hangs between two trees in a backyard.
24 May 2021 | 10.28 AM

The Power of Paid Sabbaticals

As a human being, it is natural to have the need to periodically recharge, reimagine, and renew—to stop and think, ‘What am I doing with my life? What am I achieving? What do I want to achieve?’

Paid sabbatical leaves present an opportunity for individuals to do just that, with the safety net of having a job to return to, which allows for full immersion into the period of rest.

But the benefit isn’t just for the individual. Business leaders are starting to find that the temporary absence of a single team member can also elevate the rest of the team, providing opportunities for professional development and process improvement that make paid leaves a win-win situation for both the individual and the entire organization.

What is Sabbatical Leave?

A sabbatical is conventionally known as an extended period of paid time off from work, allowing a team member to study or travel. Sabbaticals are common among educators at the university level and are conventionally the duration of one year. Many companies have begun adopting a similar practice with a length of time more feasible to their business model; however, this benefit is, more often than not, only available to high-level team members or partners of the firm.

At Accelerated Growth (AG), five-week paid sabbatical leaves are offered to anyone who has a tenure of five years. Coined the “5 for 5”, this new benefit aligns with the firm’s core values, giving team members the space to double down on their personal and professional development.

According to Bobby Achettu, AG’s founder and CEO, there is a specific reason why Accelerated Growth chose to start with the “5 for 5” plan.

“What it means to get to five years and to be eligible for sabbatical is this: not only have you chosen the firm as the place you want to stay, but the firm has also chosen you, and there is always a place for you here,” says Achettu.

Indeed, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2020 that the median tenure for US workers is 4.1 years. Reaching a five-year work anniversary is a significant milestone.

“I came from a corporate environment, and I literally freaked out at the five-year mark,” says AG Director and Chief of Staff Nico Berrini. He saw it as a point in his career to either recommit to his current company or find a new path. “With AG, I feel different. I’ve never taken off this much time, but I’m excited to immerse myself in it.”

Why Companies Should Offer Sabbaticals

The main objective of paid sabbatical leave is to give team members time to recuperate on their own terms. Research shows that sabbatical also brings other benefits such as fresh and innovating insights that the team member brings once they return to the company.

During my leave, I want to get a different perspective on what I need to do here at Accelerated Growth,” says AG Manager Robert Razo, who will be taking a sabbatical in 2021. “I have no idea what I'm going to do while I'm on sabbatical, but hopefully I'll be able to take a little bit of a breath, see what I want to do next here at AG, and actually plan that out without having so much on my plate."

While this is a great goal for any organization, the same research has shown something even more interesting—those who filled in for the ones on sabbatical experienced their own growth and took on new skill sets. They also offered different perspectives to solving problems, which in turn helped the business as a whole.

Even if a high-ranking person at the company were to take a break, the firm would not only survive, but it would thrive from the experience. Achettu also attests to the company-wide impact of an individual taking paid sabbatical leave.

The vision of the firm is stronger than any one individual, including the CEO.” He further explains. “As an organization, AG should be able to operate for 5 weeks without key individuals… in fact, doing so is not just good for our team, but it’s good for the business.”

Although larger corporations are beginning to recognize the vast benefits of paid sabbatical, this offering continues to be a rarity among small to mid-sized companies. Of those companies, AG is one of the few to offer paid sabbatical leaves.

How Team Members Benefit from Sabbaticals

Many are recognizing that sabbaticals are not just vacations but also necessary for the pursuit of purpose and happiness. Berrini wants to become more civically involved in his community, and plans to volunteer at Village Hall and meet his town’s mayor during his leave.

Paid leave is also proven to prevent burnout by giving team members more time to spend with loved ones and allowing them to recharge. Pete McDonnell, a manager at AG, wants to travel with each of his parents during his 2021 sabbatical, “as a way to deepen my connection with them,” he says. “With my dad, I want to go hike the Grand Canyon. My mom is originally from Puerto Rico, and we used to take a biannual trip there to visit family. But the last time I was there is close to five years ago, so I would love to take a trip there with her.”

Some, like AG Office Manager Julia Krol, use sabbatical leave to tackle the day-to-day tasks they had been putting off due to their busy schedule. She plans on addressing “the part of her life that’s in the basement” by organizing all the items she has collected over the years. She also looks forward to spending time with her children, who are now entering adulthood and creating their own lives outside of home.

“Ultimately, my goal is to relax,” says Krol. “It's nice to be able to take a break and know that you can come back somewhere and still be happy and successful.”

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