Annual leave: Are your people using it or losing it, literally?

See ya later August, hello September!


Is it just us or are you also waving goodbye to another weirdly busy August? What was once a month where all you would get was out of office bounce back emails, no longer seems to be the case.


Whether your employees are postponing their annual leave or working while on holiday, not taking any time to fully disconnect from work can have a negative impact on workforce wellbeing.


Why staff are hesitant to holiday


A recent study by YouGov found that four in ten people have taken less time off during the pandemic compared to previous years.


With travel restrictions, trip cancellations and social distancing rules changing like the wind, we can’t be surprised by this statistic. But it doesn’t mean that all annual leave should be placed on hold until the world fully re-opens its doors.


So, what else could be deterring your people from taking any kind of break? Common reasons include:


  • Fear of falling behind with a pile high workload upon their return

  • The false belief that they’ll be viewed more positively by managers

  • Afraid to hand their responsibilities over to another colleague


Break or Burnout


Despite the above hesitations, staff need to be aware of how important it is to take time out, especially during the irregular times that we’re in. To put it simply, the less time off your employees have, the more likely they are to burnout.


Buzzword or not, burnout is dangerous for employees and the overall organisation. As defined by Mental Health UK, it’s a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that fuels tiredness, negative thinking, self-doubt and overwhelm, leading to high turnover and increased absenteeism.


By taking annual leave and fully disconnecting from work, staff can avoid this occupational phenomenon and instead improve their wellbeing. The benefits of holidays are well-documented, but just to remind you they can reduce stress, boost brainpower, improve sleep, increase productivity and reduce the risk of many heart problems – pretty worth it, right?!


Encouragement is key


As a manager, it’s your responsibility to encourage your team to take their annual leave and prevent staff burnout. Here’s our key tips on how to do so:


Remind and recommend


As well as regular reminders through emails, one-to-ones etc. managers should make team meetings an open space to chat about upcoming or recommended holidays and days out, including their own. This can encourage others to book time off and help to form a workplace culture where timeout is considered positive.


Ditch the carry-over comms


Most companies allow employees to carry over annual leave days into the next year if they haven’t been taken. This might seem a good idea, but it could be sending the wrong message that ‘work comes first, holidays can wait’. Instead, it would be more beneficial to consider why people aren’t taking their leave in the allocated year.


Make handovers essential


Hands up if you’ve been guilty of having a sneak peek of your emails when on leave just in case you’ve missed something important?! We’re all guilty of it, but we really shouldn’t. To prevent the urge of needing to email check while away, managers should hold a meeting (where possible) for staff to handover anything that’s outstanding and provide reassurance that everything will be taken care of in their absence.


Or you could even follow suit of big-name brands such as Nike, LinkedIn and Hootsuite, who have temporarily closed their offices so employees have time to focus purely on their mental health. Whether that’s for a few days or a full week, this additional time off is for staff to rest, recover and avoid burnout.


Here at Key Wellbeing, we help organisations to create cultural change by encouraging and cultivating wellbeing for everyone with timely resources and support. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you: https://www.keywellbeing.co.uk/contact-us

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Melissa Armstrong and Marie Ranson,
Co-founders of Key Wellbeing Ltd.

Proudly from Teesside in the North East of England, Melissa and Marie have 15 years of wellbeing experience.

We’ve both seen and personally experienced the impact that mental ill-health can have on our families and the wider community and for that reason, we are both super passionate about helping people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, especially at work.