Sharon Klun and Corporate Voices partner company Accenture are featured in a New York Times article that looks at an aspect of work/life balance: sabbaticals. It’s an important and interesting issue. And the article concludes that even during the current difficult economy, now may be a good time to approach your employer about taking some time away from the job.

In fact, employers such as Accenture continue to view this as a way to benefit individuals and the company. 

Also featured in the article is Ellen Galinsky, a member of the Corporate Voices Board of Trustees and president of the Families and Work Institute.

Here’s from the article:

The consulting firm Accenture, which employs 30,000 people in the United States, started a “Future Leave” pilot program in 2005 and made it company policy last year. It allows workers to have a percentage of their paycheck automatically deposited into an individual savings account, which they can then use to take up to three months’ leave, with benefits, every three years.

“You don’t have to disclose why you’re taking it,” said Sharon Klun, director of work-life initiatives for the company. “For Gen-Y, you might say you want to travel the Himalayas, for Gen-X, you might have child care issues.”

So far, 500 to 600 workers have signed up each year, and 200 so far this year.

“These are challenging times, and a lot of companies won’t be able to give raises,” Ms. Klun said.

And also from the article:

The Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group, surveyed 1,100 companies with 50 or more employees for its 2008 National Study of Employers. It found that 24 percent of small companies (under 100 workers) and 33 percent of companies with 1,000 or more workers allowed paid or unpaid sabbaticals of six months or more.

The organization is in the process of finding out what expenses, including sabbaticals, are being cut back by companies this year, but that information is not available yet, said Ellen Galinsky, president of the institute.

An unpaid sabbatical may not sound like much of a perk, not when some employers are requiring their workers to take furloughs of a week or two as a way to cut costs.

But there’s a difference between being forced and being allowed to take time off. Keeping your benefits — which most companies allow — and being guaranteed a job after three or six months off can offer some much-needed flexibility for stressed-out workers in these times.