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The Benefits of Breaking the Busy Trap

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Originally posted on Edelman.ca.

It was quite coincidental that the day I was about to embark on my three-week sabbatical to Italy, in recognition of my 10-year anniversary with Edelman, that this article on the “busy trap” spurred a lot of discussion within my social network. There’s no question that many individuals – and the organizations for which they work – fall into the trap of measuring their self-worth and contribution to the employer by their level of “busyness.” That said, as Tim Kreider says in his article, “the space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes for inspiration – it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Soaking in the local culture in the Piazza del Campo, the main square in the historic centre of Siena, Italy.

Yet surprisingly, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 20 percent of companies surveyed in 2010 offered sabbaticals, a decline of seven percent since 2006. Given the economic climate of the past few years, this isn’t exactly a surprise as companies look for cost-saving measures. I would argue though that sabbaticals are a worthwhile organizational investment, and a very real perk – and not just for the employee, but for the employer too.

The benefits of a sabbatical to an employee are obvious, particularly when that person has been with an organization for an extended period of time. It offers a chance to self-reflect, rejuvenate, reignite creativity and reaffirm the individual’s commitment to the organization. These benefits, in turn, have powerful implications for the company.

Specifically:

 

  1. New Thinking: A fresh perspective is welcomed in forward-thinking organizations, and that is why new employees are embraced for their new ideas and feedback. By offering long-standing employees the opportunity to remove themselves from the day-to-day, they, too, can contribute new and innovative thinking.
  2. Increased Productivity: Having a chance to remove oneself – physically, intellectually and emotionally – from work results in a renewed vigour upon return. This, in turn, leads to increased productivity, which benefits the organization as a whole.
  3. Retention Strategy: The general rule of thumb is that it costs 150 per cent of an employee’s annual compensation to replace that person. Given this, investing in, and rewarding, long-standing employees so that they feel a renewed sense of commitment to the organization is not only smart, it’s a financially sound business strategy.
  4. Recruitment Strategy: I’ve been doing my own PR for Edelman, talking to anyone and everyone about my sabbatical experience, and how grateful I feel to be working for a firm that recognizes the importance of this type of experience. Who wouldn’t be attracted to an organization that offers such a wonderful perk?

I’ve recently returned from my sabbatical, completely re-charged and excited to continue to help my firm achieve its objectives. Does your company consider sabbaticals as a useful tool in your organization’s continued growth? Why or why not?

Preview image by Urban Capture.

Lisa Kimmel is general manager of Edelman’s Toronto office.

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