WORK DAZE: Your Radical Sabbatical

By Bob Goldman

Here’s a good idea — after reading this column, tell your manager that you are going out to get coffee and don’t come back for a year. You’ll still be paid your full salary and, when you return, your job — and your coffee — will be waiting for you.

It’s not a fantasy. It’s a sabbatical.

How many companies offer paid sabbaticals to their employees?

According to the 2017 Employee Benefits Survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management, 5 percent of companies offer paid sabbaticals to their employees.

Alas, most of the jobs that include a sabbatical as a perk are in higher education, so you’re probably stuck, unless you decide to publish your Ph.D. thesis on the measurement of the neutron beta decay asymmetry using ultracold neutrons. (Some of your best work, BTW. I loved the part about making itsy-bitsy fleece coats for the neutrons.)

I learned about sabbaticals from an article by writer Judith Ohikuare on Refinery29, a website that is either designed to offer helpful job advice or to drive us crazy with all kind of perks that our employers will never ever offer.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.

Unfortunately, the place you have to ask is the human resources department, a group of loving, caring individuals who wouldn’t approve the expense account of a starving man for the cost of a baloney sandwich.

One good way to get yourself extended time off is to use the sabbatical to take a college course in a subject that will be of use to the company, like Torture 101, an in-depth survey of the torture techniques used in the Inquisition. Now that’s information a manager could use.

An extended leave to care for a sick family member is also a good, backdoor approach to a sabbatical. I’m not sure the nasty case of underwing molt that has been plaguing your parakeet will qualify, but who can argue about the importance of a possible rupture in your most serious relationship?

In the end, getting a sabbatical from your job may require quitting your job. Since this strategy will also result in quitting your salary, I wouldn’t rush to tell management about your plans. You do so little at work, it could take months before they even realize you’re gone.

Once you’ve cast off from your job, the experts recommend “keeping your employer and colleagues (current and former) in the loop about your travels.”

The strategy here is that “keeping things friendly will make it harder to forget you.” True enough, but probably not necessary. After 12 months looking at selfies of you in a hammock, overlooking a talcum-powder beach on the island paradise of Bongo-Bongo, no one will hear your name without immediately remembering you as the person they hated when you were on the job, and hated even more when you left.

Returning from a sabbatical is about as tricky as leaving on one. Your first task upon re-entry is to contact your former boss and “ask them if there are any positions they might need you for.”

After seeing how smoothly everything ran without your presence to gum up the works, it’s unlikely that an opening will immediately pop into your manager’s mind. On the other hand, your colleagues will understand that you’ve “plowed through your savings. They know you need the money.”

As unpleasant as it will be to have you back, it’s probably better than your constant badgering everyone at work for loans.

Once back on the job, you are encouraged to talk about your experience.

“Don’t be reluctant to share what learning and growth you achieved during your sabbatical,” consultant Kelly Marinelli recommends. I agree. In fact, I suggest that you lay it on thick. Your sabbatical may have turned out to be a total disaster, but do let your co-workers know all about the life-changing psychic benefits of a year of hammock time on Bongo-Bongo.

Getting enough of your co-workers to sabbatical themselves into the sunset will leave you in the perfect position to leap ahead of your competition in climbing the corporate ladder. Just don’t be as dumb as your boss when your former co-workers come crawling back, crawling with sand mites and rocking third-degree sunburns.

“Some people just have no loyalty,” you say to your manager while shutting the door on the returnees. “Now, let’s grab some coffee and talk about who will take your place when you start your sabbatical.”

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.