Use it or lose it: it's time to take your annual leave

Use it or lose it: it's time to take your annual leave

As you consider the stack of work on your desk and how short-staffed your department is, taking holidays for anyone on your team is anything but a relaxing thought.

Working long hours can easily become a habit, but all work and no play can quickly spiral into burnout.

Your capacity for innovative thinking and effective problem solving can also take a dive as a result. Studies have shown that people are more productive and happier when they take their annual leave.

In actual fact, holidays offer many benefits for your employees – and your business. That's why it's important to encourage staff to take their accrued annual leave.

A quarter of employees forgo annual leave

Research conducted by Robert Half found that only 70 per cent of employees take all their annual leave days. A quarter don’t take their full holiday allowance, and 5 per cent said they weren't sure whether they did.

With such a substantial number of employees choosing to forgo holidays, the responsibility for making sure they get downtime falls on their managers. Time off work is important for health and wellbeing, and it also helps increase productivity.

Organisations where staff don’t take their accrued holidays reported a number of problems, including an impact on:

Business productivity (48 per cent).
The company's financial liability (45 per cent).
Individual productivity (38 per cent).
Staff morale (13 per cent).

Staying on top of your holiday policies can be crucial – these problems could far outweigh the benefits of having a workforce prepared to stay at their desk come rain or shine.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can inspire your staff to their their annual leave without feeling like they will pay for it later:

Plan ahead

Start by opening a conversation with your staff about upcoming annual leave. Inquire as to whether they're heading to an exciting destination this year. Remind them to pick a time far enough in advance so that you prepare for your annual leave accordingly to ensure that critical deadlines don’t pass while you are away.
 
If a long stretch of annual leave time isn't possible for your team, then suggest taking a few long weekends of their own, such as taking a few Fridays off for extended weekends. You'd be surprised by how big an impact this small schedule change can have on their overall well-being.
 
If going away isn't an option, then support a 'staycation'. You don’t always need to go away to reap the benefits of taking annual leave. Sometimes a week at home can be just as relaxing. Spending time at home with family, reading a good book, or setting time aside to complete some of their home improvement projects will go a long way to helping them to reduce stress levels.

Switch off

While your staff are on annual leave, remind them that it’s important to unplug from work. If they continue to check their emails and check in with your office, it can be just as bad as not taking time off at all. If this isn’t an option, suggest them to schedule set times to review their email or follow-up on any urgent voicemail messages to limit the amount of time spent on these tasks.

If necessary, consider bringing in temporary employees to take on some of your team's workload. Your employees will appreciate the reprieve (and feel less guilty about taking a holiday), and you can feel confident that projects will stay on track.

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Energising your workforce

Creating an environment that encourages taking accrued holiday leave offers the opportunity to improve the mood and productivity of your workers. It can also help you better manage your workforce. Avoid a glut on last-minute holiday requests by making it easy to apply for accrued annual leave and responding to requests in a positive way.

Don't sit back and allow staff to run themselves ragged or accidentally miss out on the annual leave they're due. Take a proactive stance and urge them to make the most of their holidays.

When you consider the pace at which most of us move every day, attaining work-life balance should be a priority. So do your part and encourage your staff to take their vacation days this year!

This article was originally featured as "Should you take annual leave this summer?" on the Robert Half UK Blog.

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