Our Research

We undertook a qualitative study of individuals who had taken a sabbatical from their work to explore this question. We used narrative inquiry to understand more about how people describe and make sense of their experiences before, during and after their sabbatical.


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Sabbaticals provide meaningful and enriching experiences for employees; can they also benefit the companies which provide them?

Status: Our team is looking to collaborate with leading organizations to evaluate the impact of sabbaticals.


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Do sabbatical-takers retain any benefits derived from extended leave? If so, which and for how long?

Status: Our team is actively accepting individual responses from people at all stages of their sabbatical journey - follow the link below to participate.

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The first comprehensive database of corporate sabbatical policies. 

Status: Accepting submissions - contact us with details. 

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01. What makes a sabbatical such a positive, life-changing experience?

We undertook a qualitative study of individuals who had taken a sabbatical from their work to explore this question. We used narrative inquiry to understand more about how people describe and make sense of their experiences before, during and after their sabbatical.

Breaking Away: Exploring The Life-Changing Impact of Sabbaticals

Abstract

Sabbaticals—extended breaks from routine work with the purpose of seeking rest, recovery and renewal—are increasingly common among professionals in the United States. Many of those who take a sabbatical report that it was much more than a break from work, but in fact was a life-changing experience. We wanted to explore sabbaticals to gain insights into what might make them life-changing. Through a qualitative study grounded in narrative inquiry, we found that a major revision of a person’s personal and work identities seemed to be the essence of the profound experiences our participants reported. We provide a preliminary conceptual framework of the process our participants undertook as they journeyed through this major identity change. We then draw theoretical insights into the major identity work tasks that they undertook, and propose how their sabbaticals appeared to created an identity workspace that was conducive to this major identity revision.

Discussion (sample)

We found that sabbaticals were much more than a respite from work, they were, in fact, life-changing, identity-changing experiences. Rest, restoration and recovery were important experiences during our participants’ sabbaticals but these experiences were a necessary prelude to the most important aspects of sabbatical. What made sabbaticals one of the most meaningful experiences our participants have ever had was the deep identity work they were able to undertake during their sabbatical. Sabbaticals seemed to create an identity workspace that supported and facilitated significant revisions in our participants’ personal identity which in turn facilitated crafting a new provisional work identity they would take back with them. These identity changes were followed by our participants engaging in a very different way of living and working after they returned from their sabbatical.

Theoretical insights (sample)

Our findings offer four insights that enhance existing research on sabbaticals and identity work. We discuss each in the following section:

  • The efficacy of sabbaticals for restoring wellbeing.
  • Importance of attending to identity workspaces.
  • Addressing the role of true self experiences in identity work.
  • Attending to the interplay between personal identity and work-related identity.

Conclusion

We found that sabbaticals can have profound implications for individuals’ personal and work-related identities which, in turn, may have profound implications for their wellbeing at work, and in life. Sabbaticals are a “peak life experience” that provide an identity workspace for transitions, healing, discovery and growth. Our study provides a preliminary conceptual framework for understanding the process by which sabbaticals led to this outcome, and this framework may be useful for guiding future research on how individuals may benefit from such long-term separations from work.


Research Team: Kira Schabram, Matt Bloom and DJ DiDonna

Download our research:

The first working paper on non-academic sabbaticals.

02. Sabbaticals, Employee Engagement and Productivity

Sabbaticals provide meaningful and enriching experiences for employees; can they also benefit the companies which provide them?

Research Project Overview

Despite the apparent benefits of sabbaticals, more research is needed to better understand the immediate and long-term impacts of sabbatical policies on employees and on the companies offering these policies.

To this end, we would like to examine the effects of sabbaticals on:

  • Self-reported job satisfaction and workplace engagement;
  • Employer cost-benefit, recruiting, retention, and productivity;
  • Employee time-use during sabbaticals

We are looking to work with organizations to conduct research including:

  • Randomized control trials that evaluate the impact of sabbaticals on the dimensions listed above (provided a company is aiming to create and/or implement a sabbatical policy);
  • Pre/post evaluations of employees who have taken sabbatical leave;
  • Pre/post evaluations of these employees’ colleagues, family members, and friends;
  • Surveys to employees gauging their interest in sabbatical policies;
  • New hire and replacement cost evaluation;
  • Sabbatical policies best practices (e.g., duration, compensation/benefits) in diverse organizations.

Our team is looking to collaborate with leading organizations to evaluate the impact of sabbaticals.

03. Sabbaticals: Wellbeing at Work and at Home

Do sabbatical-takers retain any benefits derived from extended leave? If so, which and for how long?

Study Currently In Progress for Individuals

Research Team: Laura Giurge, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at London Business School, and DJ DiDonna.

Request an Organizational Study

Interested in studying the impact of extended leave on your company? Reach out to our team to design an evaluation that makes sense for your organization.

04. Company Sabbatical Policy Database

Live database of corporate sabbatical policies.

Explore Company Sabbatical Policies

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