If you've read The GEO Principle, you know that I am an advocate of sabbaticals. We get lots of instruction from scripture about pacing ourselves in our work. God worked six days and then took a day off, not because He needed to, but because He wanted to give us an example. This is why we traditionally avoid work on Sundays. Moses declared a "Sabbath year" every seven years, when farmers would let their land go fallow in order for it to rejuvenate. On a larger scale, the Israelites acknowledged a Jubilee year every 50 years, when debts were to be forgiven, slaves freed and some work suspended. The Sabbath year and Jubilee year are the inspiration behind the sabbatical concept where one might take extended time off once or twice in a working career.
Most people reject the notion of taking a sabbatical because, unless they are a tenured college professor, they think it is impossible. Most people can't imagine how they could leave the work world for any meaningful length of time. Furthermore, they are unsure about what they would do, even if they could get the time off.
It helps if you work for a company that encourages its employees to take a sabbatical. One such company is Eide Bailly. The accounting and consulting firm has offices in several states, including Minnesota and both Dakotas. The publishing company I run has worked with Eide Bailly for a long time, but it was only recently that I learned of its innovative sabbatical program.
Eide Bailly requires partners in the firm to take a sabbatical every five years. The company gives them six weeks paid time off, and they further encourage employees to match that time with two weeks of vacation so they get an eight-week sabbatical. I was talking to a friend at the firm who explained to me that the requirement accomplishes several goals.
First, it helps the employee keep the right perspective about their work. During the sabbatical, the employee's email is disconnected and all the employee's clients are routed to someone else in the company. This helps the person taking the sabbatical realize that the company can operate without them. This is a harsh message for some folks, but no one should assume that everything will come to a halt if they're not around.
Second, it helps the firm figure out how to service its clients when the main contact for those clients is away. This is simply good management. All companies should have contingency plans about how clients are served when primary contacts are unavailable. The sabbaticals force Eide Bailly to follow through on this planning.
Third, the sabbaticals help the employee to prepare for retirement. Accounting can be a consuming profession, leaving little time to develop hobbies or other interests. A sabbatical forces an employee to develop other interests which may become very important in retirement years. How sad it is when someone retires and they don't know what to do.
And fourth, the sabbatical makes the employee a better employee. With rejuvenation and a little time to think about other things, employees inevitably return to the company with new energy that typically translates into better client service.