Job Advice: Should You Take Time Off from Work?

Man sitting by himself by the street, feeling depressed

Is taking time away from work a smart move? | iStock.com

Life can wear you down. You were once the star employee, but now you’re barely meeting minimum requirements. You find yourself dwelling on personal problems while you’re at work and you feel consumed by worry. It’s harder to focus on your assignments, and as each day goes by, you continue to struggle to keep up. Sometimes, the stress of your personal life can unintentionally impact your work performance — if all hell is breaking loose at home, it can become hard to concentrate or make important decisions. If you’re finding it hard to cope with both personal and work obligations, you may be considering taking an extended leave from work. However, it can be tough to know if your situation warrants time off.

If your mental health is suffering, then this is one situation that you should take time off for. Dr. Celia Trotta, psychiatrist and founder of Psychiatry Health, told The Cheat Sheet she recommends taking a sabbatical from work if you’re experiencing severe depression. Both your mind and body should be in sync when you’re working, so if you feel that either one is not functioning well, it’s time to take a step back and slow down the pace. Dr. Trotta gives this advice:

Mental health is just as important as physical health and untreated depression can be debilitating. There are many symptoms of depression, including depressed mood most of the day, almost every day; decreased interest or pleasure in activities; significantly decreased sleep or significantly increased sleep; and feeling worthless or guilty.

In the case of severe depression or other severe mental health disorders, I think it is important to speak with a psychiatrist regarding your condition and seek his or her advice regarding whether you are able to work at this time. If your psychiatrist believes you are too ill to work, I think you should learn what your sabbatical leave options are and have documentation supporting your need to stop working prior to talking to your boss. I think it is also important to let your boss know that you are receiving treatment and that you have intentions to return to work when you are well.    

The Cheat Sheet also spoke with Ola Danilina, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based technology PR firm PMBC Group. Danilina shared a few more situations where it would be beneficial to take an extended break from work as well as some do’s and don’ts when it comes to asking for leave.

Sad woman

Ola Danilina offers some sage advice about asking for an extended leave from work | Thinkstock

The Cheat Sheet: When is it a good idea to take a sabbatical from work?

Ola Danilina: Take a sabbatical from work when you need to reset. By taking time off to focus on yourself, you can return to work rejuvenated and refreshed, enabling you to be even more successful in your career. Time sabbaticals for when you need to improve your health, recover from job burnout, develop new skills, or want to volunteer.

CS: What is the best way to ask your boss for an extended leave?

OD: Be honest and transparent when asking your boss for an extended leave. There are a number of reasons to take an extended leave ranging from a family emergency to needing some time to yourself to travel. No matter the situation, being open and honest can only help with getting the time you need. Be positive and carefully develop an upbeat pitch about what you want to do, why, and when you will return. Presenting a thoughtful plan to your employer that details the reasons a sabbatical will benefit you both strengthens your request. If your company doesn’t have a plan in place for extended leave or sabbaticals, try to think creatively to leverage the benefits to the company. Perhaps writing a blog while on a sabbatical trip to volunteer could bring the company good press.

Upset employee

Explain to your boss why an extended leave would benefit the both of you | Thinkstock

The Cheat Sheet: When is it a bad idea to take an extended leave?

Ola Danilina: Taking a sabbatical without fully understanding what you are hoping to accomplish can result in a lack of growth. It’s best to investigate the reasons you are wanting to take an extended leave in the first place so you can plan your leave accordingly.

CS: What are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to taking extended time off from work?

OD:  Make sure you give your boss plenty of notice, and keep in touch while you are away. Stay current and keep your skills honed for when you return. Also, learn more about your company’s policies regarding sabbatical leave. Do your best to consider the timing of your extended leave. Your employer will be more open to your time off if you request it at a time that works best for the company. If you have been working at the company for years, you will most likely have a good idea as to when it is most convenient for you to take a sabbatical.

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