In a 2007 report about public and private sector approaches to sabbaticals, researchers at the University of Illinois found that “many corporations consider the benefits of sabbaticals so self-evident that they forego the expense of documenting them.” A stronger endorsement is hard to imagine.
However, among private employers – especially law firms – the popularity of sabbaticals tends to wax and wane, depending on broader economic trends. When times are busy, a partner deciding to take time out from client work may not be a popular move, however much they would appreciate the break. And once the economic indicators turn sour and firms have the capacity to offer sabbaticals, asking for time off may seem little short of professional suicide, demonstrating to your firm that they can cope perfectly well without you.
But the sabbatical is not dead. As a result of the recession, law firms have developed more short-term sabbatical policies – with some offering voluntary breaks as a way to reduce salary costs. Other firms have even offered paid sabbaticals to talent straight out of university in return for a delayed start date. “They may not be able to give more money, but time is the new currency,” says Elizabeth Pagano, co-founder of yourSABBATICAL.com, a company that helps employers develop sabbaticals.
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