time off

Do You Want Extended Time Off From Your Job? Here’s How to Ask For It

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new blog. I have a lot going on right now. In addition to planning a wedding and a move to a new home, I’ve been working with several new clients. One of the trends I’m noticing among my latest batch of clients, and their industry peers, is the idea of taking a sabbatical (an extended time off from their jobs). I even have a client who’s planning a “gap year” between her current job and her next job.

This idea of taking extended time off isn’t new. Sabbaticals have been common practices in select professions, such as higher education and religious institutions. Both today’s employees and employers are becoming more aware of the need for a healthier work-life balance. Therefore, sabbaticals and other types of extended time off are becoming more popular in all industries.

You may find a sabbatical is just what you need right now in your career, especially if you’re experiencing burn-out. It might make more sense to take a break from your current job than to leave and look for a new one. But if your employer isn’t hip to the idea, you may need to do a little convincing.

How to ask for a sabbatical or extended time off

First and foremost, you have to already be well-established in your current job. This means you’ve been there for at least a few years, and you’ve proven yourself trustworthy with good performance reviews. If this is the case, then next you want to appeal to your employer’s bottom line.

While indicating a request for time off, assure your employer your plan is to return refreshed and even more productive, thus increasing and improving your current output and their return on investment.

Also, you may want to remind your employer it will be a lot less expensive for the company to allow you a month or so off, than for you to leave permanently. It would be more costly for them to recruit and train someone new for your position.

This will mean you’ll either have to use a large chunk of your paid time off, or go without pay. If you’re serious about your need for a sabbatical, then it’s best to start saving now, in case you have to negotiate an unpaid break.

Another thing to keep in mind when convincing your employer is timing. You want to make sure you’re not making a request for a time when you’re most needed in your job. For example, if you’re an accountant for your company, tax season is NOT the time to ask for a sabbatical. Aim for a usually slow time of year in your industry.

Finally, assure your co-workers and employer you won’t leave them in the lurch. Plan to provide them all the information they need to function as seamlessly as possible while you’re away. For example, spend time writing down information they’ll need to access your files and clients.

Prepare to negotiate

It’s likely you’ll meet some resistance from your employer when making your request. Don’t let this cause you to give up too quickly. Instead, be willing to negotiate some things to make it more likely your employer will say yes.

This could look like any of the following:

  • Agree to check your email on a periodic basis during your break, with some boundaries in place. For example, restrict checking your email to just one hour out of the day.
  • Be willing to work remotely one day a week during your time away.
  • As mentioned above, be willing to not receive pay during your time off. This will take some financial planning ahead of time on your part.
  • Reduce your request by one week.

As with all negotiations, start with what you really want. Then, reduce those desires down to the areas you’re willing to compromise on if there’s resistance. You can always negotiate down, but you can’t negotiate up!

My experience asking for extended time off

You may be thinking this request will never fly with your employer. But you may be surprised at how things just might work out.

I remember when I worked in college career services and I was dreaming about taking an extended trip to Australia. At first I thought it could never happen. I thought I’d never be able to take off the amount of time required for such a trip.

But as I did my research and thought through the details, I was able to find a window of time when it could work perfectly.

Because Australia’s summer is during our winter, I planned my trip for December, which was the end of the first semester when all of our students would be gone for winter break. It was also during several holidays. So to my employer, it didn’t feel like I was gone for as many days as I actually was.

In addition, I had built up enough vacation to take the time off. And because the state gave all state employees an extra 20 vacation days in place of salary increases at the time, I still had 10 days of vacation left over after my sabbatical. I was able to be away from my job for a total of seven weeks.

While my trip was only four weeks, I took a week and a half off prior to the trip beginning at Thanksgiving, and most importantly, I took a week and a half off following my trip so I could get readjusted to the time difference. This allowed me to return refreshed as promised, instead of too tired from my travels. I came back to work at the same time my students were returning.

It also helped that I had a very reasonable and encouraging supervisor!

My point is, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Especially if you do the necessary work to make it easier on your employer, and therefore easier for them to say yes!


I’m looking forward to my own little sabbatical coming up when I go on my honeymoon with my husband-to-be. Because of this, I won’t be available for coaching services for several weeks, from about April 27th through May 27th. If you need coaching services prior to then, please click here to make arrangements and get on my calendar.

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