How to take time off, even if your company doesn’t offer it

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Katherine Ullman spent part of her sabbatical in Colombia.

Courtesy: Katherine Ullman

Katherine Ullman burned out of her hard work during the Covid-19 pandemic and questioned her next career move.

A two-month vacation at work was exactly what she needed to reconsider her life. In December, Ullman, 33, who lives in San Francisco, traveled to Mexico to practice yoga and also to Colombia, where she took a hike and took an online drawing course.

“There were talks about changing roles,” Ullman said of her work. “I was trying to figure it out, I want to do it?

“I wanted to do it here?” she added. “Or, should I think otherwise?

“All these factors came together and that led me to really feel I needed space.”

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Ullman’s consulting firm had a policy that applied to her during her vacation. However, not everyone is so lucky. Some may be allowed to take unpaid leave. Others may quit their jobs instead. In fact, Ullman did so shortly after returning to work in late January.

“In fact, I haven’t decided yet what I plan to do,” she said. “Then I came back and it was clear.”

Ullman now has his second sabatical, this unpaid. Fortunately, he has saved money to pay the bills.

What is certain is that sabbatics are not a common employee benefit. Before the pandemic, only 5% of organizations offered a paid sabbatical program, while 11% offered it unpaid, according to the Human Resources Management Company. 2019 Benefits Report.

Still, there is something else between a one- or two-week vacation and a few months off, said DJ DiDonna, who studies sabbaticals and is the founder of a research and advocacy non-profit organization. Sabbatical project.

“Very rarely do you get a chance to step back and say, ‘What am I doing? How do I approach life? What do I want my life to be like? Did I get out of the way?'” He said.

While experts hope that more employers will develop sabbatical policies in response to the Great Resignation, the wave of pandemic abandonment, which is also known as a big change, there are ways to move forward without a specific policy.

Whether you want to ask your employer for an extended vacation or just leave work for a while, here’s what the experts say.

How to approach an employer

Katherine Ullman took an online drawing course when she was at the Sabbatical in Colombia.

Katherine Ullman

Before you go ask your boss on sabatical, do your research. See what benefits a company can offer, even if it’s not exactly identified as sabbatical, said Vicki Salemi, a career specialist on the Jobs Monster website.

“There may be some areas of gray,” she said. “There may be an opportunity to explore.”

Even if you don’t see anything in your benefits that would allow you to extend your time off, talk to your boss. This conversation should ideally be in person or via video or telephone, but not via email or other message, Salemi said.

When you meet, you know exactly what you want – the number of weeks off and when you want it to start. Have an idea of ​​how your work would be handled during your absence, Salemi advised.

After submitting the request, proceed. Check with human resources or any other action taken during the meeting. Start a chain of emails, take note of what has been discussed, and ask other questions, she said.

If the answer is no, consider your options.

“This is an opportunity to stop and look at the big picture and see if this company is really right for you,” Salemi said.

Deciding to end

Mohit Bhasin did a lot of kitesurfing during his sabbatical.

Courtesy: Mohit Bhasin

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