The Creative Hiatus Part 2 – Your Sabbatical in 5 Steps

| October 16, 2019 | | Reading time: 5 Minutes

Creative hiatus

I know sabbaticals from many years of experience – and so do you. Between July and September you were allowed to do whatever you wanted, sleep in and recharge your batteries. Sadly, there are no summer holidays in working life, but there is another solution: sabbaticals.

Increasing performance pressure and mental overload due to lack of time are familiar to almost everyone in their own everyday lives. For many, the job controls the entire day – from the first thought when the alarm goes off in the morning until nighttime.

The long summer holidays are a fixed part of school and student life and THE highlight of every single year – then comes professional life and they suddenly disappear! However, many people would still need the long break. When the enthusiasm for work is low, a creative hiatus helps to be open again for impulses and spark creativity – in the first part of the series we tell you exactly how that’s done.

The sabbatical or sabbatical year is a solution for adults to still benefit from creativity, fun and relaxation we know from the scholastic summer holidays. This hiatus is a (usually paid) extra holiday of a duration of 3 to 12 months. Sounds heavenly, but unattainable? In 5 steps we will tell you how you get to prepare and enjoy your sabbatical year.

But first to one of the central questions: Why? The sabbatical is well known in the academical world and also in the corporate world, where it experiences a boom since the 00s. Common reasons are:

  • Educational leave
  • Travelling
  • Realization of a long planned project
  • Reorientation or refocusing
  • Prevention of burnout
How can you approach your sabbatical?

1. Research

Imagine you had the long summer holidays at your disposal: What would you do with this period of time? The first step to your sabbatical is to reflect on your motivation and doing independent research. If you've read this far, you're on the right track ;).

Your motivation could be, for example, to get to know a foreign culture and to change up your life in a new environment. Your goal: To explore Latin America in 12 months and experience a new attitude towards life. Maybe you have been dreaming of a certain destination for a long time, maybe you have only been inspired recently: In each case research is of help, in order to become more conscious of the project and your desires for your individual creative hiatus.

There is much more to research: Many companies are very open to sabbaticals and even encourage their employees to take advantage of these holidays. Inform yourself whether there is a registration period for sabbaticals or whether the framework conditions are already in place. Try to find out as much as possible in this step and also set up a logical reason for the necessity of a sabbatical. Because you will have a personal discussion with your employer. With well-founded research, however, you are well prepared to defend the added value of your project addressing your boss and, at best, to obtain his or her approval.

2. Get the "yes"

In an interview with your employer, you should be able to clearly argue why the goal behind the sabbatical year is so important for you. Try to include your knowledge of how sabbaticals have been handled by your company in the past. Especially if sabbaticals are uncommon in your company, your reasoning is crucial. In smaller companies, the awareness of the importance of a sabbatical year must often be drawn first. Here is your chance to take on a pioneering role and establish sabbaticals in your company. But keep in mind that also employers want motivated and productive employees with a creative perspective: In the end, your hiatus can prove to be an advantage for your company.

You will also need an overview of possible remuneration models. The two most common variants are:

  • Time value account: Collect overtime and benefit from it during your sabbatical.
  • Salary reduction: In this model you typically work for a period of 1 – 3 years at ⅔ of your salary which then will be paid to you during your sabbatical year.

When discussing your sabbatical, financing and also insurance are fixed points which you should not overlook. In some cases, employers won’t cover the insurance for a long hiatus. The models above have a clear advantage: With these it is common that insurance is continued.

3. Planning

The centerpiece of your preparation: After you have received the official confirmation of your company, it's time to design the most comprehensive plan possible. The better your planning, the more successful your sabbatical year will be. Because during your long holidays, your professional as well as your private life will be turned upside down. If, for example, your sabbatical consists of further education or research, you can apply for scholarships or funding at universities.
For such an application, however, your goal and project must be sound and solid: Exact planning is not only required, but it also guarantees a successful project.
When planning your sabbatical, you not only deal with the milestones of a project, but also with every other single aspect that comes along with a hiatus:

  • Who covers for you at work during the sabbatical?
  • Which projects need to be completed before you leave?
  • If you are travelling: What documents, vaccinations or visas are necessary?
  • Do you need accommodation abroad?
  • Do you need to study a foreign language?
  • If you are not staying in your hometown: Who will take care of your pets, your apartment or your house when you are not there?
  • Are you eligible to receive additional welfare or other support for your family or yourself?
  • ...

Think about what else is part of the list at an early stage. With that, the sabbatical will not lead to even more stress, but to increased creativity.

4. Hooray: Time for holidays!

You made it! After several years of preparation, your "summer holidays" have finally arrived. You researched, racked your brains about your motivation and planning and now you are able to enjoy your hiatus.
Depending on which path you decide to take, the change can be more or less challenging. An unknown country in Latin America or a foreign research team can lead to a culture shock. But it is precisely these impressions that trigger more creativity and creative joy.
No matter which way you choose, you can count on the fact that many things will be unpredictable. But this is also everything a sabbatical year is about: To try out something new, to realise a risky project or a long-cherished dream. Even if your planning is (and has to be) very detailed, you should allow yourself flexibility in implementation. After all, the sabbatical year is your own creative hiatus from everyday life.

5. Reintegration

3 to 12 (or more) months later and you are about to start your first day back to work. Getting used to your usual professional life requires as much time as forgetting the old patterns at the beginning of the hiatus did. However, you should continue to feel the effects of the sabbatical: The time you spent in your sabbatical year was probably very intense compared to your everyday life. The journey to cultures on the other side of the globe or intensive research on a topic has hopefully provided you with many memories and experiences. Now you can let all of these flow back into your job and enrich your work.
A fresh look at your everyday working life will also allow you to get started with more energy and creativity, set new goals and overcome the upcoming hurdles with ease.

Good luck for your personal hiatus!

What does a sabbatical look like, not only in theory, but in real life? We will tell you all about that in the upcoming parts of the series. Our colleague Tanja travelled the world for 7 months and gives insights into her journey and how every stop inspired her creativity: From volunteering and Baboon babies in Africa, to Slow Travel and diving trips in Southeast Asia.


Credit: © artifirsov/Adobe Stock