How Sabbaticals Can Improve Your Life

By Sarah Godfrey MAPS. AHPRA. PBA. CCOUN

Psychologist – Coach – Author – Speaker


Do you know what I would like to do if I could take 6 months off? Live out my other dream career as an archaeologist. Spend months brushing granules of dirt off an ancient bone, discovering something hidden and long forgotten with equally obsessed amateur palaeontologists. However, balancing an indulged dream against the pressures and demands of a busy life seems nearly impossible. What if taking a sabbatical could actually do more for me than create a chance to realise a dream? How more motivated would I be to take a sabbatical or two, if I knew it would benefit my intelligence, creativity, physical and psychological well-being or help me perform better at my real job?

Being a dedicated employee and priding ourselves on our work ethic are important to our self-esteem and value in our working life. Doing the long hours, putting in the effort and demonstrating endurance in the face of insurmountable tasks, are what we do to be successful. These attributes are highly praised and often come at the cost of regular holidays and planned breaks. Do we discount stepping away from work because we are unaware of the immediate and long-term effects of taking well-earned sabbaticals? And I don’t mean just one. The more you take the better the effect.

The biggest hurdle is committing to your own self-care. Can you imagine fronting up to your boss or (family) and asking for a few months or even a year off? Most of us get a little nervous just at the idea of taking more than a couple of weeks away from our jobs. Our self-doubts amp up as we worry about loss of respect, skill decline, fear of being replaced or losing our position, the job being made redundant in our absence and workplace culture and demands changing in the interim. However, even with these concerns, it appears that the value of sabbaticals is starting to make sense. People are increasingly selecting to plan and take extended breaks over staying in jobs, opting for other goals than just workplace achievements.

A sabbatical, unlike general leave (and the two-day weekend we sometimes pretend is like a holiday), is a longer rest from our working lives. Sabbaticals often last more than one month and can extend up to a year, depending on your workplace and career. In most businesses’ employees begin to generate long service leave after a period of ten years. Accruing time off for longevity and loyalty in one work environment generally gives a return of around two months paid leave. Sabbaticals fall under a more fluid guideline. They can include paid or unpaid time off.  The length of time away from your job is determined by yourself and the flexibility of your employer. It is not determined by length of tenure.

A sabbatical is an autonomous decision to invest in yourself.

The need for self-development, to discover untapped potential and enhance our skill base are driving us to seek something beyond the working life. We no longer need to see time out and our careers as opposing forces.  Instead of viewing long leave as the end of our career, it might be time to re-think our approach to taking sabbaticals. Employers may want to embrace the benefits of encouraging sabbaticals in the workplace when they realise those absent employees may return with more skills and ability than before they left. Quality time out might just be the key to increased professional success, reduced psychological injury, profitability and positive performance cultures.

Sarah is a lateral mentalist providing coaching psychology for two decades focusing on personal development. She works with her clients to build successful futures, speaks at conferences and writes books and blogs on discovering how to improve your life, find happiness and master human skills.

You can contact Sarah by emailing her at