PTO may offer some protection against the Great Resignation.

As businesses contend with employees leaving in droves, some are offering an increasingly popular perk: paid sabbaticals. Notably common in academia, sabbaticals are extended periods of time off that can last anywhere from six weeks to several months. These breaks are typically offered to long-term employees, who receive either their full pay or a percentage of their usual pay during their time off. 

As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, sabbaticals are not on the benefits menu at most workplaces-- just five percent of companies granted them in 2019, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management--but more firms are starting to see their benefits, particularly as rates of worker burnout and employee turnover have increased. Some businesses are similarly instituting mandatory vacation time (as opposed to more vaguely defined "unlimited time off") with the same aims, The New York Times recently reported.

Over the years there's research to back up the benefits of sabbaticals: One 2010 study of academic faculty members showed that sabbatical leave led to an increase in general wellbeing among those who took advantage of it, and another 2009 study focused on nonprofit leaders found that sabbaticals lead to greater feelings of creativity and improved collaboration upon their return. A limited survey conducted by the research and advisory organization The Sabbatical Project in 2021 found that 80 percent of people who'd taken a work-sponsored sabbatical later returned from leave and remained at their job for at least a year.

A 2017 Harvard Business Review case study of one company's mandatory vacation policy also found that time off lead to increases in both employee productivity and happiness.

While burnout is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the driving forces behind the Great Resignation, increased time off can help keep some employees who might otherwise be tempted to leave--in addition to attracting new talent in search of more generous PTO policies.