Thirty-five-year-old media professional Cynthia Loh (name changed) took 90 days without paid work leave during one of the busiest times of the year.
The Singaporean wanted to take time off to meet and felt really baffled by work commitments and the daily stressors they faced at work. During her break, Cynthia enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training course with the Yoga Movement studio. He paid $ 3,900 to do the course.
It was a few months ago. He has since completed training. Cynthia has returned to her workplace, but her social media is still active with yoga demonstrations. He has also recently conducted a free outdoor yoga class for his friends.
“With the support of my great boss, I was able to take three months of unpaid leave. Although this period was very hard for the team with a low man, he really needed a break from work, from Covid-19, and to regain his sanity ”.
Cynthia doesn’t rule out turning her new hobby into a secondary income, but because of work commitments, she puts those plans on hold for now.
“Now that I’m back at work, I feel like I need to make up for lost time. The work has been hectic, but I feel fresher and ready to start my day again.
Cynthia is among many others who have experienced exhaustion caused by the pandemic.
According to experts, the prolonged stress of Covid-19 and the many blockages have had an effect on our cognitive functioning.
The pandemic has not been just a stressful event Mike Yassa, says the director of the UC Irvine Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.
“It’s been a collection of many stressful, life-threatening factors at the same time, along with alterations in our physical activity, routines and daily rhythms.”
There are more people who take sabbatical years or leave for a long time
Another from Singapore, Willynn Ng, who is in her thirties, took a three-month break in April this year. The fatigue and uncertainty of the pandemic made her want to reevaluate her life goals and future plans.
The marketing graduate enrolled in a “Scrum Master” course with NTUC Learning Hub, with her $ 500 SkillsFuture credits. The young mother of four also took her free time to tidy up her house and catch up with friends.
“During those three months, I learned to be a better person and I definitely won’t lower my standards in decision making from that point on,” said Willynn, who seemed stronger than before.
Leza Klenk, personal brand coach and CEO of Spendless Academy, also announced her plans to go on sabbatical for a few weeks in August on LinkedIn.
He cited personal reasons and added that his assistant would post content on social media while he was away.
“All the best to everyone. I look forward to chatting with all of you again. My last piece of advice: take care of your mental health, because you can never pour an empty cup, ”he said.
Pandemic fatigue has affected everyone, including those at the top.
It has also been reported that other C-level executives are on sabbatical leave: Prudential Asia Group CIO Stephan Van Vliet took 12 months off this year to return to his home country in the Netherlands for personal reasons.
Ricky Tan, former chief operating officer of Nanofilm, also took one sabbatical leave recently for personal reasons prior to his resignation to seek other opportunities.
What is a sabbatical year?
A sabbatical year is usually defined as a period of long-term leave from work. During this long break, employees can choose to pursue their own interests, such as traveling, writing, volunteering, studying, or other activities (or even just taking a break).
However, sabbatical leave rights differ from company to company. They are usually delivered more easily to employees who have been there for quite some time, such as five years or more.
Sabbath days can last from two months to a year and most companies do not include sabbatical holidays in annual paid holiday allowances.
Most of the time, sabbaticals consist of using unpaid leave. This means that the employee must give up taking any income home during the time he is away. Sometimes sabbaticals are only offered to high-performing people as a form of reward to entice them to stay longer in company.
In Singapore, there is no legal right to unpaid or sabbatical leave, so it is up to individual companies to decide whether they want to grant it to employees.
Some companies that include such permits are the National Council of Social Service, the food chain The Lo & Behold Group and Maybank Singapore.
Abroad, companies have taken steps to launch company-wide breaks during this period, as they recognize the need for a break for their employees. American company Hootsuite he closed his office for a week in July. In his LinkedIn ad, he said:
“As you know, it’s been a shitty year for everyone. So we decided to take a break from the whole company to regain our ingenuity and refuel our tanks … Please do not contact us. We talk later.”
Last week, Nike closed its corporate offices for a week offer employees a mental health break. The global brand said the extra rest time is “intended for employees to cool off and recharge during the ongoing pandemic.”
The pandemic has had a major impact on mental health and work-related burnout has been on the rise, said Anita Jiawen Sadasivan, co-founder and director of wellness at the MindFi mental wellness platform.
“For people who are exhausted, unhappy at work and considering a career change, sabbaticals are a good time to develop a new skill set and prepare for a career change, or even all just to pause and reflect on his life and career. For those who love their job but feel exhausted, a sabbatical year can be a time and space to recharge and decompress so they can come back with renewed motivation. ”
Anita recommends taking sabbaticals. “Pandemic fatigue is real. We have been living with stress, uncertainty, restrictions and major lifestyle changes for almost 18 months. It’s exhausting. “
Some symptoms of “pandemic fatigue” are irritability, lethargy, feeling scared, and insomnia.
Anita Jiawen Sadasivan, co-founder and welfare director of MindFi
“This comes from the constant uncertainty we are living with, the lack of exercise and sunshine during the long days we spend at home and the blurring of the limits of working life and the difficulties of disconnecting from work.” .
Chronic stress has been found to kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain responsible for memory, focus, and learning, other experts point out.
Due to some conditions caused by working from home, social isolation and loneliness also affect the brain.
“We have seen volume changes in the temporal, frontal, occipital, and subcortical regions of the brain, amygdala, and hippocampus in socially isolated individuals,” said Barbara Sahakian, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at Cambridge University.
Entrepreneurs are open to the idea of longer licenses
It may be true that workers need a break to disconnect and come back stronger in the midst of the pandemic, but it may not be a luxury for everyone.
Going back to a job that awaits you after a break or finding time to pursue your own interests beyond work is a dream for many.
Fortunately, more entrepreneurs have been receptive to the idea over the years.
According to the Singapore Manpower Ministry Employment conditions 2018 according to a report, 51.9% of Singapore companies said they allow their employees to take unpaid leave of more than a month.
This is an improvement of 10% over 2014, where 42% offered it to their workers.
However, not all HR experts encourage employees to follow the idea of sabbaticals, such as detrimental to commercial operations. Employers and bosses can offer leave of absence, but that doesn’t mean they can fully accept the idea of being a lowly man when the company is fighting fire, for example.
If someone is eager to stop, an action plan is needed. The best way is to notify your boss or employer in advance or chat with the supervisor very soon so that everyone can make arrangements for your work while you are away.
This will also make the job easier for your colleagues, who will have to take over your role on a temporary basis and ensure positive relationships when you return.
Can’t make it a sabbatical year? Here are other ways to relax the mind
If sabbaticals are not applicable, try taking a two-week break from work to recover from stress and wear and tear.
“Spend the first week disconnecting, relaxing and recharging. In the second week, look at your limits, habits and mechanisms for dealing with stress, ”said Anita.
Using mental wellness apps like Headspace and MindFi can help you process your thoughts, learn to assess and set boundaries, manage stress, and build lasting habits.
Practicing meditation at the time can also help you find calm, as it has been linked to improved stress and memory endurance.
Physical activities can also help improve cognitive functioning. Exercise increases neuroplasticity, also known as the brain’s adaptability to change, which can help our brains recover from Covid-19.
If not, you can listen to music. Music lowers cortisol levels in the body and research has shown that it is related to improving brain endurance later in life.
To take stock of what works and what hasn’t worked for the last 18 months, Anita offered us three takeaways:
Do you have adequate working life limits in terms of both time and space? If your limits don’t work for you, what can you do to improve?
Do you feel safe and comfortable communicating your needs and limitations to your workplace? Can you do anything to improve this communication?
Do you have enough exercise? Are you drinking too much alcohol? Alcohol consumption and inactivity have been increasing since the beginning of the pandemic. As the pandemic creeps in, make sure your sleep, nutritional and exercise habits are conducive to your health.
Featured Image Credit: Leza Klenk, SoFi, Willynn Ng