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Best New Ideas in Money: Here’s why the sabbatical could be the next best thing for the American workforce

We’re getting to the point in the summer where it seems like just about everybody is out on vacation. But instead of taking two days or two weeks off, what if your break could be longer? That’s where the sabbatical comes in.

Sabbaticals are more common in the academic world, but recently, as the pandemic has changed the pace of life — and work — for so many people, new discussions around sabbaticals in the corporate world seem to be picking up steam.

People who have taken sabbaticals say they were finally able to get real rest, Joe Pinsker, a staff writer for The Atlantic who recently wrote about sabbaticals, said on this week’s Best New Ideas in Money podcast.

One person likened the difference to the difference between a vacation and a sabbatical as being like the difference between a power nap and a full night’s sleep,” Pinsker said on the podcast.

And with that rest, people are able to do all sorts of things like work on personal projects, pursue neglected hobbies or re-evaluate their careers.

But sabbaticals are still few and far between in the U.S., though companies as varied as Citigroup
REI, and Intel

have programs, typically attached to a number of years of service. However, even if a company offers a program, sabbaticals are often unpaid, so many employees can’t afford to use it.

The pandemic has ushered in a rethinking of work, and with that comes some more momentum for sabbaticals. The benefits of taking a sabbatical to the employee are clear, but HR experts say that employers should also see sabbaticals as an opportunity — not a drawback.

“From the employer perspective, when they offer sabbaticals, it could be used as a talent acquisition tool, an employee retention tool, employee engagement,” Amber Clayton from the Society for Human Resource Management said on the podcast. “It can help employers by allowing employees to take time off, especially those positions that may be creative.”

Learn more in this week’s podcast. And tune in every week to MarketWatch’s Best New Ideas in Money podcast with Stephanie Kelton, economist and a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University, and MarketWatch reporter Charles Passy. Each week, they explore innovations in economics, finance, technology and policy that rethink the way we live, work, spend, save and invest.

You can listen to past episodes here.

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