Let's say you'd like the best of all possible worlds: a healthy chunk of time off from your job and a paycheck. In academia, it's called a sabbatical, but, slowly the idea's making its way into the corporate tower.

Employes of Time-Life Books in Alexandria, for example, can take three or six months off at partial pay after 15 years with the company. Personnel director Tom Swiger says employes use the time to "work on their novels, travel or just to do total relaxation." When they come back, he says, "they have new ideas and a renewed interest in their jobs."

After only four years on the job at Tandem Computers Inc. in Reston, Va. everyone -- from the janitor to the chief executive -- is entitled to a six-week sabbatical at full salary, in addition to accrued vacation.

Tandem, a computer design and manufacturing firm headquartered in Coopertino, Calif., instituted the sabbatical as part of a liberal benefit package designed to attract and retain employes in the competitive Silicon Valley labor market. When Tandem was developing its benefit package, it asked employes to rank possible benefits; they voted for the sabbatical ahead of retirement and profit-sharing, according to Pat Becker, a company spokeswoman. She says Tandem believes the sabbatical and its other liberal benefits are one reason the company's turnover rate is a third of the industry average.

If necessary, Tandem may ask other company employes to fill in for the worker on sabbatical. Besides making sure that the work goes on, the person acting as the replacement, says Becker, has an opportunity to "get some extra experience and perspective on the company."