Sabbaticals: considerations for employers and employees
The early years in a job are filled with learning: new skills, continued development and greater challenges along the way. For those lucky enough to love what they do in a workplace that meets their needs, years fly by – with some companies rewarding continuous long service or achievement with several weeks or months of paid sabbatical leave.What is sabbatical leave?Sabbatical leave used to be more commonly associated with academic professions, with educators traditionally granted a period of paid time off – usually one year – for further study or research. Similar opportunities have since filtered into other lines of work, with paid, part-paid and unpaid options, but are offered by relatively few employers across the world.Unlike career breaks, sabbaticals mean the work contract continues, giving employees freedom to explore without penalty. There’s no set format but it is recommended employers offer the leave on equal terms for everyone in the business rather than using an ad hoc system. A dedicated sabbatical policy can outline terms for both full-time and part-time employees to prevent misunderstandings and protect against discrimination and other claims – fairness and transparency are key.According to The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD): “Historically sabbaticals have been a benefit for employees. They are agreed for a variety of reasons including rewarding long service, travel, research or acquiring new skills, voluntary work, alleviating stress and burn out or to take care of health. In current times the motivation behind sabbaticals may be more for the employer’s benefit to provide alternatives to redundancy.”With greater focus on employee mental health and wellbeing, meaningful benefits such as sabbaticals can also encourage a member of staff to spend longer with the business.Having found their niche in a team and given the opportunity and resources to achieve and excel, many employees feel valued by the prospect of a morale-boosting sabbatical. What better than a reminder of approaching eligibility for a well-deserved break – usually starting after five years’ service.How much sabbatical leave should be offered?There is no law that says a business must offer sabbatical leave, paid or unpaid, but it is increasingly being introduced to attract jobseekers in competitive industries.Although the traditional year out enjoyed by academics is unheard of for most private companies, a more affordable period of four weeks’ paid sabbatical leave is considered fair, rising to six weeks or more after 10 years’ continuous service.Forward planning is essential to allow managers to reassign the leaver’s workload across the team or advertise for temporary help. This may require the employee to give at least six months’ notice but could well be longer depending on the seniority of the role.During the leave, the employee may receive full or partial pay, or no pay at all, depending on the company’s sabbatical policy. Some employers may formally request that no other paid work is undertaken during the absence.As an alternative or an addition to sabbatical leave, companies might choose to grant additional paid annual leave for loyal staff – perhaps five extra days after five years.What are the benefits of sabbatical leave?Time out can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and one with lasting benefits for both employer and employee. With the freedom that comes with the extra time off, sabbaticals are ideal for personal development, whether it’s a self-care plan, a period of study, travel or volunteering – the freedom from the 9-5 is ideally meant for discovery as well as relaxation.Employee benefitsBy using the time productively, employees could end up adding value to their role. Here’s a few ideas for how to spend the time:Rest and recharge: A break from the daily grind gives an opportunity to step away from your work-life responsibilities and find out what inspires you.Learning new skills: A sabbatical allows for plenty of free time that can be devoted towards learning new skills or honing existing ones. Whether it’s mastering a language or developing coding know-how, these experiences will enhance your career prospects and help you stand out from the crowd.Greater appreciation: Time out provides an opportunity to reflect on things taken for granted over time, such as our job, relationships, or health.Improved health: A sabbatical gives us the chance to focus on our physical and mental wellbeing by engaging in activities like yoga or meditation. This helps boost productivity levels upon returning to work along with improving overall quality of life.Explore new interests: During a sabbatical, you could take up a hobby you may not have had time for while working. This can be a great way to develop new skills and can even lead to a new career path.Personal development: Focusing on growth through travel, education, or other goals can bring new perspectives to your work when you return.Enhanced creativity and productivity: Stepping away from work can provide a new perspective and channel your interests into projects that could be useful back in the workplace.Eliminate burnout: Many people quit their jobs when they feel exhausted and demotivated through overwork and stress. Time away is a wellbeing solution that means you can retain your job while regaining your mojo.Employer benefitsSabbaticals can also provide significant benefits for employers in terms of employee retention and attraction:Retain top talent: Offering sabbaticals can be a powerful tool for retaining workers. Employees who feel valued and supported by their employer are more likely to stay with the company long-term.Improved productivity: Sabbaticals can lead to improved productivity in the long run, with employees returning to work with renewed energy and focus,Cost savings: If an employee takes a sabbatical instead of leaving the company altogether, it can save the employer money in the long run through recruitment and training costs.Enhanced creativity: Employees can explore new interests and ideas, introducing them in their work.Improved employer branding: Companies that prioritise work-life balance and employee wellbeing are more likely to be viewed as desirable places to work.Returning to workThe hope is that employees return to the workplace refreshed. The break may have brought clarity to their working routine, new skills that could benefit their role, and fresh ideas. The early weeks settling back in are a great time for sharing these ideas and considering how the job may be shaped by the sabbatical experience.For the employee, a little preparation before the end of their leave can ease any anxiety about the return: catch up on company and industry news, check-in with colleagues, and ask for team updates so it’s not a complete surprise on the first day back.Work may also seem a little overwhelming at first, with things unlikely to be the same as when the returner left. There might be different tech to get to grips with, new team members and schedules in place. Managers should keep checking in to ensure the returner is coping and not overloaded through this transitional period. Some workplaces provide a structured ‘return to work’ plan to help employees and managers meet their goals.To encourage and inspire new and existing staff, sabbaticals should be shouted about in job adverts, social media and company websites. The prospect of a break or memory of one may lead to workplace happiness and contentment.Looking for talented professionals to join your team or seeking a new opportunity? Contact one of our specialist recruitment consultants today.
The 15-minute city: the future of the workplace
What is a 15-minute city?The 15-minute city framework was masterminded by French-Colombian urban planner, Carlos Moreno, whose idea means that anything you need to live an urban life is a 15-minute walk or bike ride away, eliminating the reliance on cars or public transport.It is a revolutionary, environmentally friendly, and inclusive way to rethink the planning of a city or town, giving each neighbourhood access to work, school, healthcare, retail, hospitality and leisure facilities, green spaces, museums and more, on their doorstep.Following multiple lockdowns, there has been a growing sense of appreciation for locality in the world, with people spending more time walking around their neighbourhoods and preferring to work from home or make shorter commutes. And during the cost-of-living crisis, people have been more conscious about the ever-increasing prices of fuel and public transport.With more people working remotely, at least a few days a week, there is room for the addition of more localised, essential services and amenities, that would otherwise be concentrated in a central location. This would give those living on the outskirts access to these essentials and to a greater number of opportunities.What impact could 15-minute cities have on businesses?A recent research by the International Workplace Group (IWG) discovered that 83% of workers around the world would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working. This indicates people are less willing to commute and prefer shorter journeys to work. As a result, having an office space just 15 minutes’ walk or bike ride away would be much preferred by professionals.Shorter commutes often lead to improved job satisfaction, work-life balance and wellbeing, with much less time spent on stressful travel. When provided with the flexibility to work remotely or from a local office, rather than commuting to a head office in a city-centre location, workers will be more tempted to stay with the business, or actively seek work there.People are now much more aware of the social value of the companies they work for, and their own carbon footprints, and will take into account the length, expense and environmental impact of a longer commute when considering moving roles.The introduction of ‘15-minute cities’ could see the expansion of businesses into less-expensive local areas, reducing overhead costs and extending access to the national talent pool. Professionals across the country will have more opportunities closer to home, without the need to move centrally or commute. Then, the local talent pool will become richer, and businesses won’t have to cast such a wide net to search for their next employee.How close is the reality of ‘15-minute cities’ in Singapore?Singapore has meticulously developed high-density, mixed-use neighbourhoods with a comprehensive range of amenities, services, and employment opportunities within a short distance of residential areas. The extensive public transportation system, including an extensive MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) network and well-connected bus services, ensures convenient and efficient travel throughout the city. Furthermore, Singapore's commitment to sustainable urban design, such as the integration of green spaces and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, fosters a walkable and bike-friendly environment. These efforts have created a reality where residents can access their daily needs within a 15-minute radius, making Singapore a leading example of the successful implementation of 15-minute cities.Overall, the concept of a ‘15-minute city’ could revolutionise the way we live, work, and hire, by reducing commute times, making it easier to access talent and opportunities, and to work hybridly. As a result, it could also improve job satisfaction, wellbeing and the general quality of life for you and your employees.If you’re looking for your next local hire or job opportunity, contact your nearest Reed office.
A four-day work week: the pros and cons
The past 16 months have given organisations time to consider how they operate, including the number of hours and days they require employees to work.It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way we work in the UK, with many businesses having to abandon the office to work from home almost overnight. As well as this, over the last year we have seen the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the challenge of juggling home schooling, leaving many employers no choice but to allow for flexible working arrangements.With this sudden shift to working from home and an increase in hybrid working, we have seen more and more conversations around work-life balance and businesses questioning their ‘typical working week’.The five-day work week has become a cultural norm, especially in the UK, but after more than a year of change, is it time to rethink this approach and, if we do, would businesses continue to succeed? Or would productivity take a hit?We asked our LinkedIn followers: “Would you consider changing your company’s working hours to a four-day working week?”. With 919 votes, 50% said yes, but with the same hours, 33% said yes but with reduced hours, 12% said no, and 6% said they would consider it, but not at this time.With 83% of those surveyed in favour of a four-day week, there are many considerations companies must make when deciding if this is a course of action they would be willing to take.What is the case for a four-day work week?A four-day work week can be defined in two ways; the first is when an employee compresses their full-time hours (typically 35 hours) over a four-day period. And the second is reducing an employee’s hours (typically to 28 hours) over four days, so they are then able to have a three-day weekend.Many argue that, while the five-day work week used to be effective in the 19th century, it no longer suits the needs of the modern-day professional.With the evolution of technology, some day-to-day tasks are significantly more time-efficient, and with an uplift in office-based roles, we are seeing an argument that longer work hours do not necessarily mean staff are more productive.Notably, over the last couple of years, many countries across the globe including Japan, New Zealand, Spain - and most recently Iceland - have trialled the four-day work week to research the effect it has on its employees.Microsoft trialled four-day weeks in its Japanese offices and found the shortened work week led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%. Similarly, Iceland undertook a trial which monitored employees working reduced hours over a variety of public sector workplaces and found it to be an overall success, with 86% of the country's workforce now on a shorter work week for the same pay.In an article for the BBC, Will Stronge, Director of Research at four-day week consultancy Autonomy, said: “It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments.”In the UK, many businesses have also trialled the four-day work week, and some have even made the permanent switch. Gloucestershire-based PR agency Radioactive Public Relations trialled a four-day week for six months and found the business was even more profitable and employees’ sickness days were halved.What are the advantages of a four-day working week?Large and small-sized companies trialling the concept have created an evidence-base of the benefits a four-day working week could bring to your organisation.An increase in productivity levelsResearch has shown that working fewer hours boosts productivity levels. With employees spending less time at work, they can feel happier and more fulfilled, leading to them focusing on their job when in the workplace.A large New Zealand business, Perpetual Guardian, trialled a four-day work week and found not only a 20% rise in productivity, but work-life balance scores increased from 54% to 78%.Environmental and cost-saving benefitsShortening your working week means that employees do not need to commute as much, reducing their carbon footprint.As we have seen throughout the pandemic, those businesses with employees working on the same four days can save on overheads and in some cases even be eligible for tax relief.Happier employees and fewer absencesAccording to mental health charity Mind, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week in England, and one in five agreed that they have called in sick to avoid work.Four-day work weeks leave employees more time to focus on personal development or spend time with loved ones. This will not only increase employees’ happiness, but can contribute to fewer burnouts, leaving them to be more focused and happier in their role.Better recruitment and retentionThe increase of hybrid working and remote working during the pandemic has led to employees wanting greater flexibility from their employers.The CIPD reported that the majority of people think flexible working is positive for their quality of life, and 30% of people think it positively affects their mental health. So, offering potential new and existing employees a flexible working pattern is a fantastic way of attracting and retaining talented professionals.What are the disadvantages of a four-day working week?Whilst there are benefits to a four-day work week, there are disadvantages too:"A four-day work week wouldn’t work practically because of the need to cover more shifts during a time where we are already facing staff shortages."Not all industries can participateUnfortunately, the four-day working week model does not suit every sector. Some businesses or professions require a 24/7 presence which would make a shortened work week unpractical and, in some cases, delay work - creating longer lead times.A nurse who wanted to remain anonymous expressed her reservations about a four-day week in the healthcare sector, saying: “As an A&E nurse a four-day working week wouldn’t work practically for us. Currently, we work long 12+ hour shifts in order to have four days off, which I prefer as it provides more of a work-life balance. However, while I know a four-day working week would be better for some of my colleagues due to childcare, the shorter, more regular shifts we would have to do on a four-day week wouldn’t work. It would mean the need to cover more shifts during a time where we are already facing staff shortages.”Unutilised labourA four-day week is not for everyone; some employees prefer the structure of a five-day working week or would prefer to put in more hours than a four-day working week offers.Likewise, some professions have tasks which simply take more time than others, which would lead to paying more in overtime or drafting in further staff to make up the shortfall (as happened in healthcare for the Icelandic study), which can ultimately become expensive.Final thoughts: should your business adopt the four-day work week?Although the shortened work week has taken off in many European countries and been successful for many UK businesses, it is an extreme approach for a company to take and requires a shift in mindset from the employer and employees for it to work effectively, so it may not be for everyone.While a more flexible approach on working hours is now expected from employees, a less disruptive, more gradual process would be adopting a hybrid or flexible working policy instead.Likewise, as mentioned above, the four-day model may not work for all sectors. What studies and data have proven is that organisations who are putting more focus on maintaining staff wellbeing, engagement, morale, and productivity are reaping the benefits.