Since March of 2020, workers have placed increased levels of importance on their mental health. One key way they are prioritizing their mental health is by maintaining a better work life balance. We already know that workers, particularly younger workers, are taking more sick time than they were pre-pandemic. Another sign of this shift over the past four years has been an increase in the frequency of workers taking sabbaticals or extended periods of time away from work.

Platform data from Gusto’s 300,000+ small and mid-sized businesses shows a substantial increase in the share of workers taking sabbaticals since 2019. In January 2024, 6.7% of employees were on a sabbatical. This is more than double the 2019 rate. While the trend is evident across employees of all age groups, it is most pronounced among Gen Z and younger millennial workers. 

In January 2024, Gen Z workers were the most likely age group to take a sabbatical, with 8% of workers aged 22-26 out on a sabbatical, followed closely by workers aged 27-34 – with 7.6% of that group out on sabbatical in January. In comparison, just 5.2% of workers aged 45 to 59 were out on a sabbatical last month. This is in stark contrast to 2019, when the share of workers aged 22-26 on a sabbatical was just 1.7% – the lowest of any age group. 

Sabbaticals taken increased most among Gen Z workers 

Anecdotally, we know that of all age groups, Gen Z workers tend to more openly demand flexibility, including remote work and more time off to nurture their mental and emotional well-being – a likely reason why more workers in this age group are taking sabbaticals. As this younger cohort of workers continues to advance in their careers and take up a larger share of the labor force, we are likely to see the share of workers taking sabbaticals increase as well. 

When looking at gender, women are more likely to take sabbatical time off than men – which differs from parental time off. In January 2024, 7.2% of women were on a sabbatical compared to 6.3% of men.  

Women are taking more sabbaticals than men

Methodology

We define an employee likely “on a sabbatical” as a salaried employee with more than 120 hours of paid vacation leave during the prior two months. 

Tom Bowen is an Economist at Gusto, researching work and business trends in the modern economy. He received his Master’s of Economics from UC Santa Cruz. Tom currently lives in San Francisco, CA.
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