Once considered a no-no, employers now recognise the benefits of taking a sabbatical and pressing the re-set button.
But that doesn’t make the actual request any less daunting.
The first step to a good career break negotiation is to flip the perspective away from you. You’re selling the “what’s in it for them” angle.
“Step into your boss’ shoes and think about what might personal persuade them,” says Karen Meager, managing director of career coaching company Monkey Puzzle Training.
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“This is particularly true if you have plans to do something specific rather than just have time off. For example, if you are learning a new skill that would enhance your ability to perform your role.”
Taking the hassle out of a potential career break is also a good move. Think about who might cover you, and how projects will be completed while you’re away. In other words, preempt any concerns your boss may bring up.
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But however you pitch it, there are a number of reasons why your work may agree to time out anyway. It doesn’t matter where you’re going or why, there are universal truths across the board that would compel your company to say “yes”.
So hold your head high and go in strong, armed with the following knowledge:
You have a history with them
After you’ve been with your work for a year or so, you start to build up a trust relationship. You and your employer develop a give-and-take pull.
“If you want to stay at your work, bear in mind that you have a history – and with history brings certain privileges,” says Alice Weightman, CEO and founder of freelancer start-up The Work Crowd, and executive search consultancy Hanson Search.
“Your employer trusts you, and if you’re good, they won’t want to lose you.”
“Smarter businesses are increasingly offering sabbaticals rather than lose great people,” Alice adds. “They want to keep and nurture great talent.
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“I’ve seen more and more employers offer sabbaticals as an employee benefit that you can take up after three or five years’ employment.
“This is testament to a new approach towards career breaks. They’re saying, ‘We recognise you have a life and we want to keep you long-term.'”
They want to manage stress
With workplace stress on the rise, companies are increasingly looking at ways to promote wellbeing – rather than risk the financial hit of sick leave or people leaving altogether.
Not only is this a wise practical approach, it also nurtures goodwill.
“It’s not unusual to experience stress and even burnout,” says Jane Sunley, chairman and founder of employee engagement consultancy, Purple Cubed. “So whilst career breaks can be used as a reward for loyal and productive service, they can also allow a stressed-out team member to recharge and reflect, returning in a more positive frame of mind.
“Work-life balance is a key issue for today’s employee. If your employer is willing to accommodate this, you will inevitably feel more loyal, trusted and rewarded. People taking time out often return refreshed and reengaged.”
They want to keep you motivated
If you’re good at your job, it makes sense that your work will want to keep you. As long as you time it right, any short-time disruption your career break causes will be easily outweighed by the benefits you bring to your team and the company overall.
“Most forward-thinking companies would embrace the idea of a career break,” says Alice.
“If you’re in-demand, they’ll want to keep you. And they want to show that they care. Not having you for short-term time is worth the long-term benefit of you staying fresh, motivated and valued.”
But bear in mind that feeling demotivated alone is not a strong enough reason to request a career break.
“The proviso is that you’re focused and up-to-speed on return. It’s not valid to say that you are just fed up and want a break – that might be true – but it won’t play well. It’s about showing purpose and energy.”
Hiring new people is a hassle
Anyone who’s ever hired for a new role knows how much time and energy the process takes up. And that’s before you’ve even thought about the cost.
The average employer spends £30,000 a replacing a staff member, once you factor in their recruitment and the loss made while you get them up to speed.
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Then there’s also the culture fit, something that’s key to workplace happiness and performance but also frustratingly difficult to get right.
Clearly, there’s a strong incentive for your work to keep you in place if they can. This is especially true if you can put forward an argument for mitigating costs while you’re away (e.g. by offering a junior member of the team more responsibility, rather than hiring in cover).
“It’s so much easier for your work to re-employ someone who knows the job, organisation and culture than to start over with someone new,” says Jane. “Ideally, try and compensate for your absence by reorganising your work or suggesting a temporary replacement.”
So, there you have it: four great incentives for your work to give the green light to your golden career break. Now go forth and conquer the world…
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