The challenges of taking a break – a question of logistics, “Deutsche Verkehrs-Zeitung”

Vienna, Austria – The concept of sabbatical leave first appeared in the US several decades ago. Burnt-out American professors felt the need to take breaks to recover from the pressures of academia, and would return refreshed and ready for new ideas. Before long, the concept spread to European universities.

Sabbaticals are also offered by American businesses. In the corporate world, sabbaticals are used to reward and retain employees who have proved particularly valuable to the firm. In the state sector, tight public budgets have probably contributed to schools offering long leaves to teachers, and the private sector in Germany has started to follow the academic example.

Many people are fortunate enough to be able to take a sabbatical and realise their dream of a break from the workday routine. However, this is not true in the logistics sector, and for good reason.

A few years ago, it was not uncommon to hear statements such as “logistics experts in Germany show great appreciation for sabbaticals,” but industry experts now talk of sabbaticals as “a discontinued model, not a future trend.”

Easier for corporations

The major players in the industry use sabbaticals to appeal to new employees. Apart from attracting fresh talent, this development is probably also in the interest of current employees who declare that they cannot work anymore and need a break.

But in the logistics industry, if a long-term employee leaves, this has major consequences because it is difficult to find suitable new employees at short notice, and get them trained and familiarised with the business in time.

Many transport contracts are concluded on the spot, and long-term tenders are more unusual. The trend in outsourcing is to assign more complex logistics packages to logistics service providers. These logistics packages must be implemented, operated and continuously optimised, requiring great efforts from all involved parties, and substantial resources over the entire period of the contractual relationship. If important employees take an extended break, problems frequently occur since logistics projects are often closely connected with the individual people who are involved in them.

Fewer graduates in logistics

Compared to other industries, the logistics industry has proportionally fewer university graduates. According to Conrad Pramböck, Head of Compensation Consulting at the international Executive Search firm Pedersen & Partners, only the most highly-educated employees of the big companies are likely to take advantage of sabbaticals.

As a result, many large companies and public services have installed their own long-term leave programs. Within the transport and logistics sector, a sabbatical is only feasible within certain parameters, mostly relating to the length of absence and the legal framework governing it. Options include flexible working time accounts, educational leave or working with fewer duties or shorter hours at a reduced salary. These programs are less common in smaller companies, but Pramböck insists that such companies could certainly offer unpaid sabbaticals.

On the same page

Employers and employees must agree on some ground rules before a sabbatical is granted – whether the employee can unilaterally extend the sabbatical period, if and to what extent a salary will be paid, the implications for social security and the regulations that apply to a female employee who becomes pregnant while on sabbatical.

In logistics and transport, employers must deal with such details with an eye to the image and future of the industry. In any case, it cannot be denied that the often-quoted work-life balance is more than a buzzword. Many employees are looking for a balance at work, while others are simply burned out and need a break. It remains to be seen whether the sabbatical model will become established in the logistics industry – but this is certainly to be hoped for.

Pedersen & Partners is one of the fastest-growing, fully integrated Executive Search firms worldwide; it is 100% owned by its partners who all work full-time to serve its clients. The firm celebrated its 15th anniversary in January 2016, and to mark this occasion, it has created a timeline web page, featuring key milestones for the firm’s development and has released an anniversary video.

Conrad Pramböck is the Head of Compensation Consulting at Pedersen & Partners. Based in Vienna, Austria, he is responsible for consulting companies on all aspects of compensation, including providing companies with up-to-date market information on salary ranges and design of bonus systems across all industries and geographies. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Pramböck held several senior positions in international consultancy firms. He started his career with a German Consultancy firm working in management consulting and later in the Compensation Consulting business unit based in Austria. For the following seven years he worked with one of the top Austrian Executive Search firms as the Head of Compensation Consulting. He was responsible for all international compensation consulting activities and developed and maintained an international compensation database in 40 countries.

Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 56 wholly owned offices in 52 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at

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