Returning to Work After an Extended Holiday or Sabbatical

What is a ?

For those of you who don’t know, sabbatical leave is an extended period of absence taken outside your normal annual leave entitlement and it’s generally used for extended holidays/travelling, studying or short term career breaks. Sabbatical leave is generally taken from anywhere between one and 12 months at a Company’s discretion and is normally unpaid.

Going on a long-term break can be a life-changing experience but there are many factors to take into consideration when thinking about a sabbatical. For example:

  • Why do you want to take it?
  • How long do you want to take it for?
  • What will you get out of it?
  • Will your employer authorise it?
  • Can you financially afford it?
  • Will your job be safe at the end of it?

The list goes on and on. However, if you are lucky enough to be in a position to go, i.e. your employer has generously authorised the time off and you can afford it finacially, then off you go…!!

How can you make your return to work a smooth transition?

So, six months (or however long) later you are faced with the prospect of returning to work next week. First thought for many – ohmigod! Suddenly, the prospect is quite daunting and the realisation hits home – how are you going to cope with being back in the work environment? Will you have the same job? Do you even want to go back to the same job? What have you missed? Can you remember everything? Is everyone still there?!! These are just a few of the thoughts that might run through your mind when returning to work.

There are a few things you can do to help alleviate all of the above anxieties but the best way is to quite simply stay in touch with colleagues and/or your line manager whilst you are away. One of the easiest ways to keep in touch is by using one of the many social networking sites out there now. The majority of people are on at least one of them nowadays but just having any form of regular contact with your colleagues to share your news and experiences will make you feel less isolated. If you are staying nearby you could also have lunch once every couple of months with your manager so they can keep you up-to-date. Remember your employer also has a responsibility to keep you informed of any developments within the Company as well.

Keep your manager well informed

On your first day back, your manager will undoubtedly expect you back all refreshed and raring to go, not realising that you are actually wracked with nerves and have not slept a wink the night before! Hopefully once you get there they will already have a meeting booked with you so they can update you on everything. If they haven’t, do request one. Ideally, your first week back should be like an induction week to ease you back in to your role.

One thing to remember on returning to work is that some of your colleagues may be a little resentful and a tad jealous of you taking the time off, so whilst it is perfectly acceptable to share your experiences, listen to what they have to say as well and don’t think you are the only one with anything interesting to say!

New working conditions

Generally speaking, you will be entitled to return to the same (or similar) position on the same terms and conditions of employment as those prior to your absence unless there have been some material changes within the Company whilst you have been away. Do ensure that you have confirmation from your employer in writing confirming the sabbatical leave dates authorised with your return to work date and the position you will be returning to, along with the Company policy so you are clear on the procedures. If you feel that on your return the policy has not been fairly applied, you should seek redress through the appropriate channels in writing then submit a formal grievance if necessary.

Just remember, you will soon re-adjust and get back in to the old rhythm of things again. It may take a couple of weeks but don’t panic about it and give it a bit of time before making any rash decisions. You may also enjoy your job  better the second time around! Good luck to those of you returning to work!