Take it or (annual) leave it:  encouraging your employees to take a break

According to a recent Glassdoor Annual Leave Survey the average UK employee only uses 77% of their annual leave. Glassdoor’s statistics show this number is lower among younger workers in their first jobs.

With annual leave being 28 days for a typical full-time job, this means that the average worker is at work for nearly 7 days a year when they could be off.  But does this mean they are working well?  Actually, the opposite is probably more accurate.

A 2016 Harvard Business Review research project concluded that, “Statistically, taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home.”

So why are staff so reticent to swap their office chair for a deckchair?

In the Glassdoor survey, the following answers arose time and time again in answer to the question “Why don’t you take your holiday days?”

  • “Fear of getting behind”
  • “I want a pay rise”
  • “Nobody else can do the work”
  • “It’s too hard to disconnect”
  • “I’m scared about losing my job”

Do you know if your team feel the same way? Do you?

How can you persuade your employees to take the time off that they deserve?

The reality is, many corporations still revolve around “presenteeism” where hours you’re seen to be in the office seem more important than the quality of your work.

However, no matter why annual leave isn’t taken, you have a role in encouraging it.  Here are a few tips on how to do just that:

  1. Talk to your team about the importance of taking time off work
  2. Encourage senior staff to take time off work to model this behaviour
  3. Make sure that everyone knows how much holiday they have and clarify if days off are rolled over in to the next year, or if they have to be taken in that calendar year
  4. Encourage staff to book time off well in advance, and talk to them about their cover and handovers. This can be discussed in 1:1 and even in appraisals.
  5. Think ahead and let staff know if there are any times in the calendar when it’s not possible for them to have time off
  6. If people are not taking time off –ask them why. Are they worried that their projects will grind to a halt? That they will be seen as slacking? That their job will be at risk if they are not present?

Sun, sea, laptop?

In Glassdoor’s survey, a staggering 44% of people reported working while on holiday; thereby not getting a proper break.

According to the Pew Research Centre, rather than technology helping people work less, allowing for more downtime and time off, nearly half of office-based workers say technology has actually increased the amount of time they spend working.

To counter this, when preparing to go away; staff should be clear on who is deputising for them while they are out of the office.  They should be encouraged to leave laptops and work phones at home and make it clear that they need to take this time to recharge and rest.  If individuals feel the need to work while on holiday, this can be discussed when they return.  What work did they do? Why? What could they do to make sure this doesn’t need to happen again?

Creating a holiday culture

If you’re struggling with a culture where holidays just aren’t taken, you can start small.  If employees feel too overwhelmed, guilty or nervous to take days off, here are some things you can do to gradually try and create a more relaxed environment:

  • Encourage employees to have lunch away from their desks
  • Celebrate the end of projects and big wins: show staff that after hard work comes time off, whether it’s a long team lunch out, early finishing on a Friday or time off in lieu
  • Talk to staff about the Pomodoro technique – 25 minutes of concentration followed by 5 minutes of recreation

How to maximise the personal and business benefits of a holiday

Harvard Business Review research has shown that poorly planned and stressful holidays eliminate the benefit of time away.  They found that if you plan at least a month in advance, create social connections on your trip, travel far from work and feel safe while you are away, 94% of holidays have good ROI in terms of your energy and outlook when you get back to work.

Why not share this information with your team, and then go out for lunch to discuss your holiday plans?