At least in India, the concept of a sabbatical is practically unknown. The workhorses that most people here tend to be, coupled with the social stigma of being jobless, ensures neither employer nor employee ever considers it. But as is we well know, workplace stress is rampant.
Refreshing then, was to know about Swanand Kelkar, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, who decided to take 2020 off (yes the whole year!) to pursue his interests. In an interview, he explains how he was enamoured by a concept called time billionaire. We all want to be money-billionaires, but the scarcest resource any of us has is time. If we had enough time to do anything we wanted (i.e. no office, no deadlines, no 7 am Monday morning blues) then what would we do? He decided to use the one year to attempt 10 different interest areas like professional cooking, yoga certification in Sivananda Ashram in Madurai, book writing, dancing and other things that he would have otherwise never ventured into. Engaging the expertise of stalwarts in these respective fields, he set about using a month each pursuing his interests. He says he also benefitted from interacting with people in such diverse fields bringing myriad viewpoints compared to meeting the same people daily at work.
My own experience of a short break – to dabble in gaining a few new skills – some years ago in between jobs was fruitful, but perhaps not as well structured. I can however vouch for how much the gains can be – far outweighing the benefit of just staying stuck in the same job for those 12 months.
Of course not everyone can take a sabbatical at will. Some may have just joined a new organization, or their employer may not be sabbatical-friendly, or one may not have money saved up to ride out the non-earning period. In these cases, some planning will be necessary. However, at the end of the day, sabbatical / vacation / break etc. are all just ways to gain some mental peace (maybe using up-skilling as a means). The Prime Minister of India has not taken a holiday in 30 years at least, and neither has my Guru. They are both working at peak efficiency, the former in his 70s and the latter in his 80s. I have much to learn from them.