Stop the office, we want to get off

Apr 03 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Millions of people in the UK are planning to take a career sabbatical thanks to a growing acknowledgement by employers that taking an extended break from the rat race can actually be a good thing.

Almost one in five British workers - some 5.5 million - are planning to take a break from work, according to a survey by Direct Line Travel Insurance, joining three million others who have already enjoyed some sort of career break over the past five years.

While almost half of these are spurred on by a desire to travel see the world, a third said that they needed a break from the rat race, while a quarter said they were burned out by the pressures of modern life.

While taking a sabbatical used to be the preserve of students and a very lucky few, the survey found that British employers are increasingly receptive to the idea, so much so that a quarter of employees now work for organisations which offer sabbaticals as a staff benefit.

The public sector, finance and insurance industries are most supportive, with four out of 10 employees able to take extended breaks.

The same is true for more than a third of staff in the IT and telecoms sector and a quarter of those in the health service.

The upside for employers is the boost sabbaticals give to recruitment and retention efforts. A quarter of those surveyed by Direct Line said that they would be more likely to work for a firm that offered sabbaticals, while third said that they would be more likely to stay with an employer if they knew they could take a career break.

But unsurprisingly, many employers are still resistant to the idea. More than one in 10 of those who have already taken a break said that their employer was opposed to the idea and two thirds admitted that their boss had tried to stop them from going.

But many employers would quickly have found that this opposition was counterproductive, with almost a third of staff leaving their job permanently in order to take time off.

Chris Price of Direct Line Travel Insurance, said: "Taking an extended break from work used to be the preserve of a privileged few, but now more and more people are taking time out from their careers to travel.

"It seems that firms are recognising this desire and are offering sabbaticals as a way of recruiting and retaining the best staff."