Sabbaticals Aren’t Just for Pastors, They’re for Everyone.


If you find yourself weary and in need of rest, congratulations, you are human. We’ve come a long way since the Industrial Revolution, when factory workers from kids to octogenarians regularly worked 100-hour work weeks. But even 40 hours a week, five days a week isn’t sustainable for years on end. Churches and academics have always valued sabbaticals–extended, paid time off to eligible employees. And lots of other workplaces are beginning to realize this, too. As a result, we’re seeing more and more companies offering sabbaticals. 

Biblical origins of sabbatical leave

The concept of a “sabbatical year” originated in the Bible, where Leviticus documents a command from God for an “extended rest, the Sabbath Year.” Israelites were to rest for an entire year while their land, too, rested, uncultivated for that year. 

Adopted by academics 

In the Modern Era, universities and academia espoused the idea of sabbaticals for their professors to encourage research and give them a break from day-to-day teaching. The sabbatical system has largely carried over to the present day, and is, we’re happy to report, finally gaining traction in the workforce at large. 

Why everyone deserves a sabbatical 

Even the most tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, to borrow a phrase from A Christmas Carol, knows people deserve rest. And if they don’t, they might need a sabbatical most of all. Sabbaticals are, simply put, good for people. 
Personal goals

Even if you’re a pastor, a principal, or president, you have a life outside of your vocation. There’s that hobby you’ve neglected, your unfinished novel, the trips you haven’t taken. Given an extended time off of work, you’ll be able to do the things you’re most passionate about and feel much more fulfilled. 
Breaks are good

Bragging about one’s devotion to one’s job is no longer the badge of honor it once was. We don’t admire, anymore, the dedication of someone who says they put in 80 work weeks and hardly sleeps. We feel sorry for them. Resting is essential for your mental and physical health. Take it whenever possible. 
Remember your family?

Joking aside, work/life balance, as with work/rest balance, is a key indicator of personal happiness. You need to feel like yourself to give your best to your family and your work. 

Why sabbaticals are good for business 

Sabbaticals are one of those workplace win-wins. They’re good for your employees and your business. 
Generous time off makes happy employees 

Knowing they work for a company that cares about their personal wellbeing can be a strong motivator for employees. Having a sabbatical to look forward to and then enjoy is encouraging and hearting. 
Attract and retain the best

In this competitive workforce, finding the best talent is an uphill battle. Why not get the edge while offering new talent an uphill battle of their own? Say, a month off to climb K2 in a few years? 
Offering sabbaticals is a huge plus and potential employees will take note. For your current employees, the promise of a sabbatical makes for much less turnover than in companies without this type of incentive. 
Gives younger employees a chance to step up

If you’re not sure if that kid in the front office is ready for a promotion, you can test him in the safe confines of a sabbatical. When a more senior employee is off enjoying some well-earned time off, younger employees can step up and prove themselves, learning valuable skills along the way. 
Makes teams stronger and less reliant on one person 

No team is strong if they’re reliant on one person. Encourage employees to adjust to new roles and to find different ways of doing things while one particular leader is on sabbatical. You never know what talent you have or ideas they can generate unless you see how your teams perform without their star player. 

Leaders in sabbaticals 

The benefits of sabbaticals have not been lost on the titans of industry. Many, if not most, big names in business offer their employees some type of sabbatical reward for years of service. McDonalds, REI, Patagonia, Whole Foods, Nike, Penguin Random House, and the Container Store all offer sabbatical options in their benefits packages. The length of sabbatical can vary–usually one to two months–and the reward threshold is varied as well. Some companies offer it at five years, others at ten years. Some, somewhere in between. 

Where are you going to go?

Even if it’s years out, thinking about how you’ll spend your sabbatical is a wonderful thought experiment. Here are the most popular ideas we’ve found: 

Learn more: Take a page out of academia’s book and devote your sabbatical to learning something new. Dig deeper into a foreign language, take some cooking classes, or just start working on your TBR (to be read) pile. 

Travel: If you have the means, taking a month-long trip around the world, or just to a little cabin in the middle of nowhere, can be one of the best ways to spend your sabbatical. Reconnect with friends and families in different countries, research your roots, or eat your way through Italy. 

Finish what you started … however many decades ago: Lots of people use their sabbatical to start and finish their passion projects. Research, memoir, rewiring the kitchen, whatever you’re passionate about, your sabbatical is the time to jump back in. 

Get started

If you’re an employee, find ways to make the case for sabbaticals. And if management isn’t hearing it, it might be a good idea to start looking for a workplace culture that already has a sabbatical program in place. 
If you’re a leader in your organization, you have a great opportunity to set in motion a wonderful benefit for your employees and workplace. Sabbaticals aren’t just for pastors or academics anymore, they’re for everyone.