Do you allow employees to take a sabbatical? Are you considering offering this option as an incentive for hard work and commitment? Sabbaticals can be extremely beneficial for both employer and employee, but it’s important to get the transition back into work right. We look at how to work with employees returning from a sabbatical.
Sabbaticals can be a great incentive to existing and prospective employees; encouraging staff to remain with your company and as a tool to recruit new talent. There are benefits for employers too: reduced stress and burnout and an employee who returns with a new perspective, renewed creativity and energy for their role. However, the transition back into their role, or perhaps a new position, can be difficult for all parties involved. Employers should think very carefully about how they will work with an employee returning from a sabbatical.
Points to Consider Before Offering an Employee a Sabbatical
- Who will do their work while the employee is away? Split the workload between other members of staff? Take on a freelancer? Or move another employee into their role for the duration of the sabbatical?
- They may not return from their sabbatical. Not an easy one to call. They may “discover themselves” while they’re away and make some life / career changing decisions. Equally they may find other work and move on.
- There is a risk that you might discover you no longer need that employee. Perhaps you’ll find that you manage well without them, or the person who has stepped into their role does it that much better.
Out of Sight, but Not Out of Mind
While your employee is on sabbatical it is important to keep lines of communication open. You have a responsibility to inform them of any changes to your company in their absence, especially if it has a direct bearing on their role. However if you want a smooth transition when they return you should also keep them updated with less significant news, whether this is new business, accolades, personal news from colleagues etc. Express an interest in what the employee is doing during their sabbatical too; make them feel that they are still a valued member of your team.
Easing an Employee Returning From a Sabbatical Back into their Role
Understandably an employee returning from a sabbatical may have a few reservations of their own such as concerns about getting back into the day-to-day working ethic and apprehension about how their colleagues will react to their return. As their employer you should do your best to alleviate these worries and help them settle back into their position.
Arrange a meeting with your employee as soon as they return or, if possible, a week or so before. This is an opportunity to welcome them back, bring them up-to-date, discuss their role and prioritise their work. It is also a chance for you to find out what they’ve been doing during their sabbatical and, importantly, what experiences can be brought into their role with your agency. For example, their experiences on sabbatical might make them the ideal person to handle a particular account, or they may have gained specific skills that will be beneficial to your agency.
Where possible encourage other key members of your team to hold similar meetings with the returning employee: potentially their time on sabbatical will provide your agency with a new resource that everyone can benefit from.
Finally, remember why you agreed to allow the employee to take a sabbatical. It may take them a few days or weeks to get back into the swing of things, but with luck, they will return with renewed passion and energy for their role.
Have you had experience welcoming back an employee returning from a sabbatical before? Please share your stories with us in the comments.