While the concept isn’t new, we’ve generally considered the sabbatical a privilege for a select few professions. You may never have even thought to look for the option in your benefits package.
But why not?
As U.S. companies make inroads for working parents with paid parental leave, optional sabbaticals take work-life balance into consideration for all employees — regardless of whether they’ve just become parents.
Justice for childless professionals is probably not the intention behind this unique benefit… but those of us in that category certainly appreciate its growing popularity.
What is Sabbatical Leave?
A sabbatical is a special kind of paid time off, separate from accumulated vacation time, personal days or parental/family leave.
You usually have to take an extended period at once, from a few weeks to a few months, and it takes much longer to earn than regular vacation days.
Sabbaticals have been common for a long time, particularly among academics. But the practice is now making its way into company benefits packages, from retail stores to tech startups to international manufacturing corporations.
We found hundreds of companies offering sabbaticals, but a few really surprised us!
Retail and Food Companies Offering Sabbatical Leave
Who’d expect working as a cashier could earn you long-term paid leave from work? It turns out, with the right company, it can.
In some cases, loyalty to a company can earn all employees a sabbatical, even a part-time retail clerk.
In others, the benefit is only available to management or corporate employees. If you’re not quite there yet, consider starting in the store and working your way up the ladder.
Check out these seven surprising companies offering sabbaticals:
Through its Environmental Internship Program, the outdoor clothing company allows employees “from all parts of the company” up to two months paid time away from work. However, employees must spend this time working for an environmental group of their choice.
You can find open retail and corporate positions around the country at Patagonia’s jobs page.
2. The Cheesecake Factory
Qualifying employees can take a three-week sabbatical after five years with the restaurant chain.
Most qualifying positions are located at the company’s Calabasas, California, headquarters. But you can also apply to be an hourly staff member and qualify for paid time off and other employee benefits.
McDonald’s corporate employees can take an eight-week paid sabbatical for every 10 years of full-time continuous employment with the fast-food giant.
Benefits for restaurant manager and crew member positions vary, since most locations are operated by franchisees. Find open positions and read more about benefits at mylocalmds.com.
This Southern convenience store chain offers a four-week paid sabbatical to full-time and part-time employees after 25 years of service and every five years after.
Apply for a full- or part-time position in your area. Part-time clerks start at $10 an hour, while overnight clerks earn $11 an hour, plus an annual profit bonus.
Employees can earn a four-week paid sabbatical after 15 years of working for the outdoor retailer and every five years after that.
6. The Container Store
This retail chain/Type-A heaven offers full-time employees an extra 80 hours paid time off after 10 years and another 40 after 20 years, according to Fortune.
As part of a flexible work environment, the footwear company offers employees opportunities for paid community service or a service sabbatical. Employees can take between 12 and 24 weeks, according to yourSabbatical.
Browse open retail and corporate positions around the country at the company’s careers page.
What Do You Do During Sabbatical Leave?
For some companies, like Patagonia, sabbaticals are conditional. You’ll be required to do volunteer work or something else that fits the company’s mission if you want paid time off from your day job.
But in many cases, you’re free to use your time off as you please.
Companies offer the option as a way for you to recharge, explore and learn something new. In short, a sabbatical is an opportunity for you to become a better person — and a better employee.
These Adobe employees, for example, used their sabbaticals to volunteer around the world.
One 40-year REI employee blogged about using his sabbaticals to paddle the Pacific coastline between Alaska and Washington.
This mother-daughter team used their time off to sail around the Caribbean, and it sparked a whole new company!
What might I use a sabbatical for? Some paid time off to explore Europe would be lovely! A sabbatical could be a great opportunity to travel the world.
More nature-minded folks might enjoy a chance to get off the grid. Turn off your phone, write a clever away message for your email and hit the trails. Spend a summer camping or hiking in your favorite spots.
Or maybe you do plan to take advantage of parental or family leave, but you’d like more time? Use a sabbatical to extend your stay at home without missing out on pay and benefits.
Some people also use the opportunity to spend a summer at home with older kids on break from school.
And here’s one I wouldn’t have considered.
“One senior project manager (at Ryan in Dallas) used the four weeks to move from one home to another and take the time to properly pack and unpack,” Fortune reports.
That’s a smart way to relieve the stress of moving!
Your Turn: What would you do with a sabbatical from work?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).