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August 07, 2002
Companies Learn Value of Sabbaticals
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Sabbaticals, a tradition in the academic world, have been making their way into the corporate world.

In an effort to help their executives cope and to prevent them from leaving, some companies have introduced executive sabbaticals that range in length from a month to a year, according to a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

A few are compensated and the rest are either partially compensated or uncompensated, but all give the executive the right to return to his or her job, the Post-Intelligencer reports.

Many companies have introduced sabbaticals to cut their own costs. The cost of replacing a senior employee is greater than allowing a current one to take a leave. After a sabbatical, an executive is expected to return to the company refreshed and more committed, and without thoughts of withdrawal.

The Post-Intelligencer reports that some executives use the time off to be with their families, do volunteer work or take exotic trips. Others just use the time to relax, think and enjoy life.

Some companies make use of executive sabbaticals in rough economic times instead of layoffs. If a company anticipates recovery, executives are often put on sabbatical so that the company retains its top talent. Others, like Cisco, tie the sabbaticals to charitable causes, giving laid-off employees the chance to work at a nonprofit organization for a third of their salary.

But the Post-Intelligencer suggests that executive sabbaticals should be used only when certain rules are put into place. The sabbaticals should be given to the top talent and awarded based on merit. Time limits, pay and benefits, and expectations about the recipient's return should be made clear.

Whether executive sabbaticals are used during good economic times to attract the best people, or during the worst times to hold on to great employees, they certainly cut costs and benefit both the employees who receive sabbaticals and the companies that grant them.

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