Give yourself a break - are Brits taking enough holiday time?

POSTED: 2nd June 2014
IN: Personal News

Work is an important and, for many people, fulfilling part of life, but everyone needs a break now and then. Taking some time off work to relax and clear your head is crucial for your own health and wellbeing, in both physical and mental terms.

Work is an important and, for many people, fulfilling part of life, but everyone needs a break now and then. Taking some time off work to relax and clear your head is crucial for your own health and wellbeing, in both physical and mental terms. undefined

You would think that most employees would not need much convincing to take some holiday time, but research suggests that a significant proportion of Britons regularly fail to take their full annual leave allowance.

So what's the story behind this trend, and what should employers do about it?

How common is it for workers to sacrifice holiday time?

Recent surveys have suggested it is far from uncommon for British workers to miss out on some of the annual leave they are entitled to take.

According to a poll by CheapHolidayLand, almost a fifth (19 per cent) of online consumers regularly fail to make full use of their holiday provision.

Nearly one in 20 (four per cent) respondents claimed they often had more than a week's worth of available days off going unused.

A study conducted by the GetYourGuide website indicated that the trend was even more extreme, with as many as two in three UK employees sacrificing some of their annual leave allowance.

More than a third (35 per cent) of people have more than three days left over at the end of the year, while 15 per cent have at least five unused days, according to the findings.

While these surveys should be taken with a pinch of salt - seeing as they were conducted by companies with a vested interest in encouraging workers to take holiday time - there have been separate studies showing this is a genuine problem, particularly among managers.

In July 2013, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) published a report showing that only half of company managers had booked a summer holiday, with 35 per cent having scrapped their plans for a break altogether.

On a related note, a poll of over 1,200 workers by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) found that 54 per cent of managers feel compelled to work when they are supposed to be on annual leave.

What is causing this trend?

Several factors are thought to be contributing to this phenomenon, one of which is the fact that many people feel their workloads are too heavy to allow any holiday time.

Petra Wilton, director of strategy at the CMI, pointed out that the recent economic challenges and the amount of work required to maintain the recovery mean managers are working harder and longer.

"It's about time some of them took a well-earned break, which will pay dividends when they come back healthier, happier and full of renewed energy and enthusiasm," she added.

In the GetYourGuide survey, 12 per cent of respondents said they don't take all of their annual leave because they want to appear more hard-working to colleagues.

However, the most common reason cited was experiencing clashes with co-workers wanting to go on holiday at the same time, given by 32 per cent of people, followed by financial constraints (19 per cent).

It could also be argued that modern technology is making it more difficult for employees and managers to relax, even when they do take annual leave.

Seven out of ten (71 per cent) respondents to the ILM study said they read and respond to emails when they are supposed to be off work, while 80 per cent admitted to checking their smartphones and Blackberries while abroad.

What can employers do?

Some employers might find it tempting to let staff come into work when they should be taking time off, but it is imperative that workers give themselves a break so they are physically and mentally ready to fulfil their responsibilities.

In a survey conducted by recruitment agency Robert Half last year, 30 per cent of UK HR directors said employee burnout was a common problem within their organisation.

More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents said heavy workloads was the main cause of this issue, while 31 per cent attempted to address it by urging workers to take time off.

Adopting a positive and encouraging attitude towards annual leave will certainly increase the likelihood of staff and managers taking a break, which will benefit the business through greater efficiency and improved morale.

Charles Elvin, chief executive of the ILM, said: "Organisations can increase positivity and performance by encouraging staff to plan for their leave.

"Managers should hand over their responsibilities and ensure they switch off and recharge - both themselves and their Blackberries."

This view was echoed by Empire, an employment law and HR firm that advised employers to make careful plans for holiday requests.

Donna Gibb, HR manager at the company, pointed out that most businesses should expect an upturn in requests for annual leave in the build-up to summer, particularly from parents.

"Summer months are especially busy so it is advisable for employers to plan ahead and perhaps put polices in place to restrict the amount of people off at one time," she said.

"Business owners must ensure they balance the needs of the business whilst keeping staff happy and motivated with holiday rewards."

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