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I’ll Be Back: Leaving for and Returning From a Sabbatical

A sabbatical or leave of absence can be an immensely rewarding experience for any career accountant, but how do you ensure the experience isn’t detrimental to your practice or your client relationships? Having a plan, communicating with your employees or co-workers, and adequately preparing for your return are instrumental factors in making your sabbatical work for your entire firm.

Make a Well-Timed Announcement

When you decide on a departure date, the first thing to do is inform your clients and partners of your upcoming absence. Be thoughtful about how you let everyone know. Are you going to organize a formal meeting or speak to each person individually? Make sure your timing is ideal. Don’t announce your sabbatical on the heels of any major changes to your practices or accounts. Giving plenty of notice also affords you the time you need to address issues and implement any measures to help everything run smoothly in your absence.

Leave Space for Growth

It’s an unavoidable fact that while you’re gone, someone else is going to be taking over your clients and your duties at your firm. Instead of just leaving your employees with more work to do, why not use your absence as a way to provide less-experienced employees and partners with an opportunity for professional growth? Before you leave, set aside some time for training. Introduce your replacement, or other employees, to the intricacies of the job that you do.

Taking a sabbatical can also be an opportunity to improve client trust. Showing clients your firm continues to provide excellent services even in your absence showcases your firm as a strong, functional team, rather than a collection of individuals all doing different things. Maintaining business as usual while you’re on sabbatical can foster trust, and stronger, longer-lasting client relationships.

Return With Something New to Share

A sabbatical is a great way to recharge and take a break, but you should also be doing something meaningful with it. It’s not just a vacation; it’s a way to better yourself. Before you leave for a sabbatical, have a solid action plan in place that will guide your activities during your time away from work.

Whether you’re opting to travel, take a class, or write a book, make sure that a good chunk of what you’re doing is relevant to your career. When you return, set up one-on-one or group meetings where you can impart your new knowledge to your employees, partners, and even your clients. Your new experience adds value to your firm, and can also be a big factor in helping to educate your employees.

Re-integrating into your workplace after a sabbatical can be challenging, but proper preparation can ease the transition. Staying in communication with your firm to some degree while you’re gone can help with a smoother return. A couple weeks before your return, reach out to co-workers and clients to plan how your first few days back will play out. Be sure you know what tasks you’ll be responsible for, and try to delegate key tasks so you can devote some time to catching up. Communicate directly with your clients as well, and if possible, set up client meetings so you can get up to speed on how certain accounts have grown or changed.

A sabbatical is not only a great way to rest and recharge. Properly planned and executed, it can also be a huge advantage to your firm and to all your co-workers. Make the most of your sabbatical by encouraging open communication and teamwork before and after your leave of absence.

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