Stressed Out? Take A Sabbatical

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Leading European online travel agency, eDreamsreleased the findings of a multinational survey that rates Americans, out of the 12,000 respondents in eight countries, as themost overworked and in need of corporate sponsored sabbaticals, or paid leave, in order to increase productivity, improve mental health or acquire new skills.

A multinational study has revealed that Americans are the most in need of an extended break, such as a sabbatical, with over half (52%) admitting that a ‘planned strategic work pause’* would improve their mental health. Americans rated much higher than all of the 12,0000 respondents in the eight countries surveyed (European average 39%) - the other nations included in the study were France, Germany, Sweden, UK, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Although sabbaticals are strongly associated with employees in academia and college faculty members, the term also extends to a period of paid leave from work, which can be used to acquire new skills, travel, training or rest. With 23 companies on this year’s Fortune’s 100 Best list offering a partly or fully paid sabbatical to their employees, usually after five years of service, the concept of taking a proper R&R break in addition to existing paid time off to recharge, travel, or follow personal goals is becoming more widespread. But according to this study by leading European online travel agency eDreams, more needs to be done to help motivate the workforce, as 23% feel more stressed coming back to work after their summer vacation, compared to just 15% of German workers. Additionally,  Germans (28%), the French (23%) and Spaniards (23%) are able to knock off from work earlier on Fridays, while only 17% of Americans are able to do so, and a huge 87% of workers in the U.S. aren’t offered time back in exchange for overtime days worked over the weekend.

One way in which Americans would like to relieve this stress is through taking a sabbatical. Three quarters (75%) of employed Americans say they would like to take an extended break, with over half (53%) citing the opportunity to escape the stress of working life as a contributing reason (higher than EU average of 49%). Despite this, just one in five (22%) is currently offered a sabbatical by their employer. According to the survey,  30% of Americans couldn’t afford to take unpaid time off and this is highest among women (35%). The gender gap also reveals that more men are offered paid sabbaticals than women.

The top 10 reasons why Americans would like to take an extended career break are:

Percentage of Americans versus European countries

U.S.

EU average

1 To get away from the stress of working life

53%

49%

2 To improve mental health

52%

39%

3 To improve physical health

40%

33%

4 To go travelling with family (including children)

39%

31%

5 To go travelling with a partner / spouse

34%

29%

6 To go travelling with friends

22%

18%

7 To go on a course / learn a new skill

19%

21%

7 To go travelling alone

17%

14%

9 To gain new experience in a new field of work

16%

15%

10 To go volunteering

15%

13%

The research found that Americans are the least likely to take a sabbatical to visit a country they might potentially move to – less than 9% want to do this, compared to a quarter (25%) of French people and 17% of Swedish people. The Baby Boomer generation however, those aged 55+, are much more inclined to become expats in a new country (11%).

The career benefits: 43% of Americans (53% men and 37% women) believe that taking a sabbatical would make them more employable, much more than the number of British people (26%) who think the same. An additional 37% say it would make them more confident at work and 26% think it would increase their prospects of earning more in the future. Men (30%) feel stronger about their earning potential after taking a sabbatical, compared to just 23% of women who say it would help them get better salaries.

Less is not more: On average, U.S. workers receive half the paid vacation time (10-12 days**) that Europeans are entitled to by their employers (20-25 days), so it comes as no surprise that almost two thirds (63%) say they don’t have an adequate amount of paid time off. As a result, 59% of Americans claim that they are overworked and don’t have a good work-life-balance. Americans living in Southeastern states are the happiest, 45% claiming to have a good work-life-balance, compared to Southwestern states which are the least satisfied (34%).

Flexibility is key: Internationally, Despite having on average the least amount of paid time off, 23% of Americans start planning their next vacation as soon as they return to work from a trip, which is higher than the European average (16%). Americans also get more flexibility than Europeans around working from home (20%), and for leaving early to catch a flight or go on vacation, with one quarter (25%) having this work perk compared to just 16% of British and 17% of French people.

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