Why you need to encourage your employees to use their holidays – now!

This week’s blog is written by co-founder of Parent & Professional, Helen Letchfield.

We know that legally employers have to offer employees holidays – but what happens when employees don’t take holidays and it starts to impact their wellbeing?

More than ever we all need some time out from work right now.  Those employees who continued to work from home during lockdown are at the biggest risk of burnout.  We are anecdotally hearing how many people haven’t taken ‘any’ or ‘only a couple of days’ of formal leave since March.  With travel plans still up in the air, many people are finding that planning a break away is even more stressful than usual, and whilst the boundaries between home and work remain so blurred for those home-workers, it feels even harder to formally request holiday.

Policy change helped but also hindered…

At the end of March the government announced that those employees who hadn’t used their annual leave entitlement due to Covid-19 could roll it over into the next 2 leave years. This offered employees flexibility, but of course it also gave people the option of NOT taking their holiday.

Parents in particular need a break:

Those parents who have had no childcare for months and who have been struggling to combine childcare, home-schooling and working are desperate for a break.  But financial insecurity and the worry (from both a health and logistical perspective) of booking a last-minute family break has meant that many parents are planning ‘stay-cations’ this year.  How to avoid the temptation to ‘quickly’ check emails or to agree to jump on ‘just one call’ when this is how we’ve been working for months?

Impact of not taking holidays:

Lawatwork.co.uk explains what happens when employees don’t take time out for holidays:

Burnout. People become tired and jaded over time, despite their best intentions. Everyone needs to take some time off to recharge their batteries. A tired workforce will lead to slower productivity, a lower quality of work, and a negative attitude that damages employee engagement.

The Wall Street Journal explored a different perspective in their article ‘No, really your boss wants you to take vacation - now’.  This article explains the potential longer-term impact on businesses of employees not taking their holiday entitlement – they call it the ‘year-end vacation crunch’.  If the majority of employees save up their holidays, the chances are they will all start to use their entitlement just before it runs out, increasing the likelihood of inconsistent team coverage.

A report by human resources company Zenefits, YourPeople, found that employees in approximately 3,000 organisations surveyed submitted around 63,000 vacation requests in April and May, down from around 120,000 in the year-earlier period.

How can HR and managers help?

  • Look at your internal data and track how many people are taking holidays at the moment vs this time last year. You may find you don’t have a problem at all – or you may discover there are certain teams or departments which are taking less holiday than others.  If you find a problem area you will know which managers to speak to
  • Talk to your senior leaders and make sure they are role-modelling booking in formal holidays themselves and encouraging their team members to take leave
  • Keep an eye on sickness levels in terms of both physical and mental health
  • Consider articles and communication in your newsletters or on the intranet around the importance of taking a holiday

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