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.”
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.