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The Self-Funded Sabbatical: Will You Pay for Time Away From Work?

Computer giant Cisco Systems in San Jose, California, experienced a surprising response when it created a sabbatical program six years ago. Employees who accepted a two-thirds pay cut were offered a chance to volunteer for a year in the non-profit sector. Cisco expected 20 to 25 employees to sign up. Instead, 300 applied.

Similarly, Accenture’s Future Leave program – a self-funded sabbatical program that allows employees to take up to 90 days away from work – is an innovative alternative to the traditional leave of absence. Under Future Leave, Accenture continues to pay benefits and, afterwards, participants return to the same job.  Employees have the option of budgeting for the time away by having a percentage of earning (they choose the amount) placed in a separate account.The pilot program, which was introduced to more than 30,000 U.S. employees in March 2007, was adopted as an ongoing program in Accenture’s U.S. offices this past January.

As companies stretch their innovative muscles to respond to the wail and moan about work-life balance, you, my dear friend, now have the ball in your court.

Do you want to play or just keep moaning? Will you return the volley, saying, “Thanks for meeting me half way. Sure I’ll pay for the time away”?

It’s nice to hear about companies that do nice things. And while putting your money where your mouth is may not be easy, many people now have a choice about taking a break while keeping a career on track.

So, you there, would you smile and pay up? Or not.

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