Should you take a sabbatical? We share our thoughts with AAT Comment06.11.2019

Why a Sabbatical is a Win-Win for You and Your Employer


Thinking about taking unpaid leave to recharge batteries or pursue a personal project? Here’s how to persuade your employer to give you the breathing space you deserve.


Feeling burned out, or a stressful life event, can make you want to give up on everything. Sometimes, however, a couple of months’ break away from work is all that you need to recover.


AfID volunteer with hosts in Kenya

Test your skills and gain new ones

Accountant Ruth Hilton also took unpaid leave twice. She volunteered with Accounting for International Development (AfID), a social enterprise that organises volunteering opportunities for accountants with 500+ charities in 50+ countries.


“My first assignment was in 2012 with John Paul II Justice and Peace Centre in Uganda, helping them prepare for their first audit. The second was in 2017 with Ruchipo Child Protection Organisation in Malawi where I helped set up financial recording and forecasting processes.”


Ruth says both assignments hugely increased her confidence in her abilities. “When volunteering I was the expert, without a manager to check things with. My second placement also improved my management skills as the people I was working with were not accountants.”


David Busby, Volunteer Services manager at AfID, comments: “What surprises many finance professionals who lend their skills to non-profits is that they get back just as much, if not more. This includes interpersonal and intercultural skills, resilience in the face of the challenges and unpredictability they may face while volunteering, and a confidence boost in the depth and transferability of their financial knowledge. They return to work with this renewed trust in their ability and a greater appreciation for their profession.”


AfID volunteer couple on Sabbatical in Uganda

Sabbaticals can be a win-win for all

Your employer may be temporarily inconvenienced while you’re away, but they also have much to gain from your time off.


“You are likely to return to work with fresh enthusiasm, motivation and a head full of new ideas,” says Jenn Fenwick, career coach.


You’ll also put into practice the skills you’ve learnt. “Volunteering especially is a great test of character in terms of adaptability, patience, leadership and problem-solving – important traits that accountants inject back into their job upon return,” says Busby.


“Working in an environment far removed from a corporate structure also means that volunteers must adapt their approach, which heightens flexibility, strategic thinking and decision-making skills.”


Ruth Hilton employed her improved management skills shortly after returning, when she started managing new apprentices.


Getting your boss onboard with the idea of a sabbatical will be easier if you make it clear to them what they stand to gain on your return. It will also help you with planning how to spend your sabbatical time by thinking it through well in advance.


Ultimately, the goal is to recharge, gain some varied experience, and return to your role with renewed enthusiasm.


You can read the full article up on AAT Comment here.