Cue the Sabbatical

Leaving work for the last time

What are the benefits of taking sabbaticals for employees?

On 17/01/2016, snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, won his 6th Masters title after an imperious performance against Barry Hawkins, winning 10 frames to 1. What’s remarkable is that this was O’Sullivan’s first competitive tournament since April 2015, after taking an 8 month sabbatical from Snooker. Having had such a successful career to date, it’s well documented that O’Sullivan has unquestionable talent, however, his latest success could be attributed to his lengthy sabbatical away from the game.

It is important to note that this is not O’Sullivan’s first sabbatical from snooker, having taken a 6 month break in 2012/13 season. Shortly after returning, he was victorious at the Masters in 2014, defeating Mark Selby in the final.

This trend appears to be conducive to success. We look at identifying how sabbaticals can be implemented in the workplace, and importantly, the benefits they can offer to employees:  

1. Self-Awareness

Employees frequently state that one of the greatest benefits of sabbaticals is the chance that they provide for learning something about oneself during the break. In fact, it’s common for people to take sabbaticals because they have lost their original excitement and zest for their work.1

In the case of Ronnie O’Sullivan, he attributed the Masters win in his ability to modify his game, which he felt was needed in order to remain competitive. He asserted that he had to “reinvent himself,” and specifically find a way to add more power to his shots, after witnessing the tactics of younger players.

This highlights how sabbaticals can be a time for workers to consider what they need to do differently; a time to consider what competitors are doing and perhaps what other industries are doing too. Subsequently, they can turn that knowledge around, and apply it to their jobs.

2. Replenish Energy and Commitment

Taking a lengthy hiatus can allow individuals to refuel in the short term and feel rejuvenated upon returning to work at a later date. Interestingly, they can allow a newfound commitment to work.1

Reasoning for O’Sullivan’s sabbatical was partly because he was advised to get his health and sleeping in order, after reports of insomnia from travelling. The sabbatical allowed him to return feeling refreshed, arguably contributing to his success at the 2016 Masters.

Another example of this is, Antonio Horta Osorio, CEO of Lloyds Bank, who in late 2011 was signed off work for medical reasons, explicitly for stress and extreme fatigue. However, following a short 2 month sabbatical, Osorio returned to work, resuming his role as CEO, after feeling in a greater condition.

3. Increased Confidence

Well executed sabbaticals can help individuals develop confidence in the long term.2 For instance, those employees that continue with the habits they learnt on sabbatical upon returning to work, should be able to hold on to the positive effects of the sabbatical, even after returning to a potentially stressful environment.1

As mentioned, O’Sullivan demonstrated self-awareness when analysing opponents during his sabbatical, modifying his game accordingly; in turn contributing to his Masters victory. He claims that this achievement, in itself, will elicit feelings of self-belief and confidence for further performances.


In certain circumstances, it is necessary for sabbaticals to be taken, particularly when the health of an individual is at risk from work. Having an extended break can allow individuals time to reflect as well as give rise to a newfound commitment when returning to their position. In the case of O’Sullivan, sabbaticals have acted as a restorative tool, which have helped to alleviate the issues which can occur when competing at the highest level. This has improved his own personal resilience, which has undoubtedly contributed to his latest success at the 2016 Masters.


Does your organisation give individuals the opportunity to take sabbaticals?

How effective are your employees’ personal resilience strategies?



1) Carr, E, A. and Tang, Ping-Li, T., 2005. Sabbaticals and Employee Motivation: Benefits, Concerns, and Implications… Journal of Education for Business, 80 (3), 160-164.

2) yourSabbatical, 2016. Sabbaticals give individual a competitive edge. Available from: