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What is the UK’s attitude to taking a career break?

Have you ever looked out your office window and wondered what was beyond those four walls?   Well, taking a career break could be the answer to your prayers. Career breaks, sometimes called the ‘adult gap year,’ have increased in popularity as employees want to improve their work-life balance. There are a variety of ways that people can spend their career break such as doing voluntary work, travelling or backpacking, training and development, caring for relatives or children or paid work abroad.

Here at Altitude Futures we surveyed 1,000 UK working adults to understand more about their attitudes towards taking a career break and whether they would even do one in the first place.

The research showed that over a third (37%) say they would consider taking a career break in 2022. Of those 32% have already made plans to take their career break. 

Activities that people would like to do on their career break

The pandemic has had a profound impact on society as a whole, so it’s no wonder that 52% of those surveyed would like to, simply, relax if they take a career break. A much needed break is needed for many to step away from the monotony of everyday life and see what the world has to offer. A career break allows us the ideal opportunity to replenish our energy, focus our mind and refresh our motivation. 

48% would like to travel the world on their career break. Travelling not only opens you up to new experiences, there are also many opportunities available. An option for those looking to travel abroad on their career break is volunteering, allowing you to really make a difference to people’s lives while abroad. You can volunteer with wildlife, help children and their communities, assist with conservation projects, the possibilities are endless.


Additionally, 41% of those surveyed would like to develop personally on their career break. It can be the perfect time to really follow your dreams, if you’ve ever wanted to write a novel or even learn how to ski in the beautiful Swiss alps with our ski school, now is the time to do so. A career break allows you the time to accomplish the things that you wouldn’t have time to do if you were working full time.

40% of those surveyed would like to learn something new on their career break. A great option could be taking on the challenge of language teaching in another country, which will allow you to immerse yourself fully in the culture of the country and can really improve your CV. It’s also a great opportunity for those looking to learn a new language or improve the language skills they already have. 

Moreover, 31% of those surveyed would like to work in a different industry for future work opportunities. Having a career break means that you can figure out what you want to be doing long term as this is an extremely difficult decision to make, that you may have not got right the first time. The time working in different industries allows you the time to effectively re-evaluate your career goals. 

Finally, 27% would like to go on a retreat on their career break. There are a range of options such as a meditation retreat or a yoga teacher training programme.

What’s stopping people from taking a career break?

We believe in the many benefits of taking a career break both professionally and personally but it is also important to consider whether a career break is really the right decision for you, the survey by Altitude Futures demonstrates that it isn’t for everyone. Over half (54%) of those surveyed said they would not consider taking a career break.


Not all workplaces are as open-minded about their employees taking a career break, 23% of those surveyed believed they didn’t think they would be able to return to their workplace if they took a career break. It is imperative to check in with your employer about the possibility of taking a career break before making any concrete plans because, unless you’re looking for a career change, you want a job waiting for you afterwards!

20% worry it would affect their career or progression at their job, which can be enough to discourage many people from partaking in a career break. This can be particularly daunting for women who often have to work harder than their male colleagues to earn promotions, especially in male-dominated fields like Engineering and Finance. Therefore, it is more essential to have an upfront discussion with your workplace about how taking a career break could affect your job.

Where in the UK are workers most likely to consider taking a career break?

There’s no definitive type of sabbatical-taker, but the trend is that Londoners in comparison to other parts of the UK are the most likely to say that they would consider taking a career break next year at 58%. Of those, 45% already have made plans to do so. 


Londoners are also most likely to say the pandemic changed their mind about taking a career break, with 42% saying it did.

Has the pandemic affected those wanting to take a career break?

The pandemic has definitely had an impact on those wanting to take a career break, 28% of those surveyed said the pandemic has changed their mind about taking a career break in the future. 

Additionally, the pandemic has affected young people who want to take a career break the most, with 64% of those aged 18-24 saying that they have changed their mind about taking a career break because of the pandemic, the highest percentage of all age groups. 

So what can we take from this?

It is a major decision for anyone to take a career break, that should not be taken lightly. Before organising anything, it is important to determine when, where, and how long the career break will be. 

Once you have chosen for definite that you will be taking a career break, you’ll have the opportunity to improve both your professional and personal life. Having a perfectly thought out plan with what you’re planning on doing during your career break, as well as how you’ll get back into your career after will allow you to have the experience of a lifetime.

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