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6 months sabbatical with job back guarantee

6 months sabbatical with job back guarantee

Reading time: 7 minutes

6 months of travel despite permanent employment? No problem at BSH! Rebecca Berger, HR Officer at BSH, took up the offer of a sabbatical and visited numerous countries with her camping bus. In this interview, she tells us why she decided to take a sabbatical, what experiences she had, and how important the support of her colleagues was for her.

Rebecca, what is your current role at BSH?

I am a personnel officer in the Human Resources (HR) team in Traunreut. In this position, I look after managers and their teams. Together with my manager, I also look after special topics such as the competence development program and HR controlling for the Traunreut site. The job is very exciting, and I really enjoy it.

What made you decide to take a sabbatical?

When I found out about this option, I immediately thought it was great that we at BSH were offering our employees something like this. As part of my job, I already explained to several colleagues how exactly a sabbatical works, what they should bear in mind and finally concluded the sabbatical contract with them. They were always very happy to have the opportunity to take a sabbatical without a giving notice and to be able to return to their valued workplace. Each time, I was very happy for my colleagues and realized that I would love to have such an opportunity myself. Since my first job at BSH in 2013, I‘ve never had the opportunity to take a longer break. I have had an old VW bus since 2016, which I only drive in the summer, and I wanted to use it properly for once. That means doing what I enjoy most: living in a camper the whole summer, being outside every day, getting to know new countries, climbing, being in the mountains and getting to know other cultures and people.

What was the path from idea to implementation like?

The idea matured in the fall of 2017, and it was only after some effort that I dared to ask my supervisor whether she could imagine me taking a 6-month sabbatical in 2019 or 2020. She responded positively, signaling that we could make it work and asking me to consider what my replacement might look like during the absence. It was crazy that I had to get over myself, even though I knew that my superiors in Traunreut exemplify and implement the culture of making it possible 100% of the time, but I felt guilty because I knew that my request could cause trouble. However, the positive reaction of my superiors immediately removed any doubts. We subsequently planned my sabbatical absence with a year and a half of preparation from April to the end of September 2019 (as of today, it was a pretty good decision that it became 2019 and not 2020...). With the support of my HR colleagues as well as managers, we were able to arrange my absence in a way that worked well. All my tasks were distributed among several heads, and it was pre-worked and planned by me as much as possible.

How did your colleagues and superiors react to the decision?

Very positively, all my colleagues were happy for me and told me so. Of course, it was very important for everyone to clarify how they could deal with my issues and tasks so that I could really be well represented in my absence.

When did you take your sabbatical and how long were you away for?

I planned the sabbatical so that I could have six months off at a stretch, namely from April to the end of September 2019. We started in Chiemgau in April 2019 and arrived there again at the end of September after 18,000 km.

What did you experience during your time away?

Together with my boyfriend and with my camper, I spent six months traveling through various countries, including the Balkans. I have always been interested in the Balkans, especially because I knew very little about the countries and their cultures. I learned a lot, especially about the history and society of the countries - plus they are scenic, with their mountains, beautiful rivers, proximity to the sea, many natures, and national parks, etc.

We were more than welcomed everywhere whenever we met locals. In almost every country, we were invited home at least once by locals and given gifts there, with everything that grew in the garden. Really touching how many great gestures we were allowed to experience during this time. The deepest in my memory is a family from an Albanian mountain village. They invited us to park the bus overnight in their driveway and gave us vegetables from their garden the next day. We had to accept it - after a long discussion - although the family has very little income but lives only from what grows in this garden. At least we were able to give something to the family as well, but it was hard to know that now we must take apples and cucumbers from their garden, although they have limited means themselves. Similarly, a situation in Bulgaria when we asked a man for directions and then he took a cabbage head out of the trunk and gave it to us, laughing and hugging us. An encounter of 10 minutes that was so warm. 

I live here in the Chiemgau, in the tourist area. I have often explained the way to certain places, but handing out gifts, inviting people - not that. I have taken with me from my sabbatical to do that more often now.

We visited the following countries during the six months: Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and then we went back via Croatia and Slovenia. I was particularly impressed by Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I learned a lot about the war in Yugoslavia and Bosnia. I was not aware of the terrible events that took place only about 550 km from our home. 

It is very interesting to talk about it with people in Germany because very few people know what happened there 30 years ago after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Since then, I have also been involved in aid projects for Bosnia.

What did you take away from the sabbatical?

A deep impression of very beautiful, exciting countries and people, history and the experience of great climbing routes, beautiful mountain tours and a new engine from Serbia for my camper. Professionally, I have taken with me that I can work in a super team, have managers who enable us employees to do what is possible and we can organize ourselves very well together - we are well positioned in the HR team.

How was your return to BSH?

I found the re-entry good. But I was also looking forward to seeing my colleagues and my work again. It took half a day to get the laptop up and running again, including all the systems, but then everything was back up and running quickly again, and some exciting topics were waiting for me.

Were you afraid that it would be difficult to find your feet again in your position after the sabbatical? What was that like in reality?

To be honest, I didn't have any concerns at all. The day-to-day business in my position is so varied that even after seven years I can and must keep learning. It's also the case that I was able to return to my previous position, so I knew all the managers and teams to be looked after, and our processes didn't change during my absence either. So, I was able to jump right back in and get started.

Do you have any advice for colleagues who are also thinking about a sabbatical?

Yes, first talk to your manager about this wish and, if necessary, then to the HR officer about how and when it could work and prepare the absence together with your manager and colleagues in the best possible way and with sufficient lead time.




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BSH all over the world.

BSH Hausgeräte GmbH, with a total turnover of some EUR 15.6 billion and 62,000 employees in 2022, is a global leader in the home appliance industry. The company’s brand portfolio includes eleven well-known appliance brands like Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau and Neff as well as the ecosystem brand Home Connect and service brands like Kitchen Stories. BSH produces at 40 factories and is represented in some 50 countries. BSH is a Bosch Group company.