by | December 11, 2020

Reading time: 8 minutes

The percentage of employees with burnout complaints has been steadily increasing since 2015. According to the TNO, this has fluctuated around 10 percent for years, but in 2019 it concerned more than 17 percent of all employees (ArboBalans, 2019). Young professionals (25-35 years) in particular suffer from this: 21 percent of them suffered from psychological fatigue due to work. But pressure is experienced at every age. The student, the young professional and the medior / senior employee.
At Novum, we asked ourselves to what extent a sabbatical should be facilitated by the government, the SVBatical. For every citizen the right to receive every “x” year, an “x” number of months, an “x” fee for doing what you really want. For some this could be traveling, taking a course, having more time for the family or perhaps taking the step to start their own business. The more we talked about it, the more complex it got, who did, who didn't, and in what form?

Preliminary investigation

The most important issue is, what does the citizen think? However, in order to get the right questions and input from the market, we started asking various experts for input. We toured unions, HR departments, corporate organizations, professors and various career coaches. This resulted in the following interesting quotes:

Trade union

“It is necessary that this will be facilitated. There are many life events where it is of great importance that there is a moment of reflection every now and then. This is the same for every citizen and therefore everyone should be entitled to it. ”

Senior HR manager

“In the present time there is a lot more attention for“ health and wellbeing ”. Balance is very important, he also sees this in his younger employees. ”

Professor of Sociology, Utrecht University

“Focus must be on the low-skilled. The highly educated will be fine. “

Career coach

“Everyone should get off the moving train every now and then and see if they are still going in the right direction. It used to be a taboo, nowadays it is normal and the labor market is flexible enough that this can also be expected of employers to comply with this. “

Vignetting method

During the preliminary investigation, we were advised to use the Vignette method. We have not used this research method before at Novum, which is why we, apart from the method, also became very enthusiastic about a new way of testing. In short the Vignette method: A vignette is a card with a sketch of the situation on the basis of various characteristics (attributes). With the Vignette Method, the respondents are shown a number of these vignettes and are asked to give their appreciation for the presented situation. Simply stated, each vignette must be given a report mark. With the aid of a mathematical analysis, the importance of each aspect in its mutual relationship is determined.

In order to use the Vignetting method properly, we have chosen to submit 3 sub topics;

  • duration of the sabbatical, 3/6/12 months
  • frequency of the sabbatical, 5/10/15 years
  • financial contribution from the government, 70% last earned monthly salary / € 1050 per month


By using the different combinations we had a total of 18 vignettes to present to the respondent. To get a clear picture of what citizens have in terms of (latent) needs with regard to the subject, we have opted for a hybrid approach. Before we showed the vignettes, we first asked a number of open questions without them knowing which topic / concept we wanted to discuss.

We asked the following open questions:

  • What do you spend your time on during the week?
  • If you could choose for yourself what you would spend your time on, what would that be?
  • What contribution does this time use make?
  • What if you could spend time on this? To what extent do you think you should do something in return.

Since we carried out the investigation on the street in August 2020 (taking into account the then applicable measures of, we had to carry out the vignet method in a modified way. Instead of showing different vignettes at the same time where the respondent chooses a vignette, we opted to present all vignettes on a Tablet. We read the vignette and asked them to make a (quick) choice by giving a rating from 1 to 5 (see example vignette).


The open questions revealed that most of the respondents now spend their time on work & family / friends. Sports, housekeeping and training were also frequently heard answers. If they were allowed to know for themselves what they would spend their time on, a large proportion of the respondents intended to travel. Resting, family / friends and starting your own business were also frequently mentioned uses of the time.

The responses of the respondents showed that the majority would like to give something back to society as compensation for the paid leisure time received. They saw the interpretation of their free time mainly as an enrichment of their own life instead of an enrichment for someone else.

vignet score 338The vignettes followed the open questions. The results showed that the majority of the respondents were so enthusiastic about the fact that there would be a sabbatical that the very first vignette they saw was rated the highest (score: 3.38). This vignette does not have the longest time, highest frequency and highest salary. Assuming that it was not known that 17 other vignettes would follow, the first vignette did not count in our results.

vignet score 333The third highest rating rated at 3.33 was with a term of 6 months, every 5 years with a payment of 70% of the last salary earned.

The vignette that was rated lowest with a score of 1.71 was with a term of 6 months, every 15 years and a fixed fee of 1050 euros.

There were also a number of respondents who indicated that they had no need at all for a sabbatical. Quotes like: “I want to work well, don't need a sabbatical” & “None of the options, I work 25 hours a week and my father makes up for the rest. Fine. ” were also discussed.


  • The vignette method was recommended to us for this study. This method, new to us, turned out not to be convenient to use at the present time. Due to the corona measures from the government, a distance had to be kept and respondents could not touch and choose the stickers themselves. The result was that we had to go through all the stickers one by one, which sometimes led to confusion among respondents. The question: "Haven't we had these before?" came by several times. This also led to a lack of clarity among the respondents as to how to rate the vignettes. Did they have the most pleasant thing in their eyes or not yet?
  • The result is debatable because the highest scoring vignette was the very first vignette that the respondents were presented with. We have therefore left these out of consideration because we expect that people will appreciate them the most out of enthusiasm.
  • The conversations we had during the interviews show that, in general, there is not much need for a recurring sabbatical. Most of the people we spoke to were moderately enthusiastic. The idea appealed to them, but after thinking about it a little longer, they also liked certain routines in life (such as work).

In view of the above learnings, there has been insufficient support to set up a follow-up experiment. The SVBatical experiment was concluded.

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