Maximise the value of taking time out

“Employees are the backbone of any organisation” – Roger Martin, The Power of Happiness. 

At Hertalis, we are inclined to agree… however, keeping a team motivated, engaged and productive can be the biggest challenge faced by any employer.  In our Powered by People series, we’ll be exploring everything to do with the employee experience.  First up: the importance of holiday policies & encouraging employees to take their full quota of leave.  

Despite being entitled to a minimum of 28 days holiday each year, one-third of employees in the UK don’t utilise their entire annual leave allowance.  (Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these statistics are compiled on behalf of travel companies; but they do have a point.)

The problem isn’t just limited to UK-based businesses; Expedia’s 2016 Vacation Deprivation study indicates that globally, 35% of employees don’t take all of their allocated vacation days. In fact, South Korean employees spend 92% of their time at work and just 8% on vacation.  

Line managers play a critical role in defining the workplace culture surrounding annual leave entitlements.  It’s easy to end up focused on delivery, especially when investors or shareholders are demanding results.  Often, the only time that holiday requests are in the spotlight is when too many employees have requested time off and resources are stretched.  Rarely will a leadership team come together to look at how many staff have not taken enough leave.

Unfortunately, here’s what we know happens when your staff don’t take regular breaks: 

  1. You end up with a workforce that is overworked, overstretched and stressed 
  2. It’s likely that you’ll see a decline in your employees’ health 
  3. A perpetuating cycle of negative work-life balance appears, and your staff soon burn out 

So, what would we suggest? 

A transparent policy & process for booking leave is key.  Employees should be clear on their holiday entitlement for the year, how to request this and how much notice to give.  Make it easy for them to ask for time off and most importantly, let them know that they are actively encouraged to take their annual leave – no strings attached.  

Train your line managers thoroughly.  Explain the value of taking regular breaks and make sure they are clear on how to handle holiday requests from their direct reports.  Remember that they too, will need a break and will value working for a business that appreciates the importance of healthy work-life balance.

Be inclusive.  Not everyone enjoys taking long breaks; for those who prefer their holiday time ‘little and often’, make sure you keep an eye on their holiday quota and encourage them to book holiday regularly through the year to avoid long periods without a break.

Use checklists to support workload handover.  This will help employees leaving for holiday time feel confident about leaving their work with someone else and ensure they feel they can switch off while they’re away.

Globally, countries such as Norway, Brazil and Denmark rank highest amongst nations who recognise that regular time off is important for health, wellbeing and focus at work. I mentioned in a previous post that Norway was voted the happiest place to live and work; whether you’re an employee, line manager or founder… perhaps we should be taking a leaf out of their book.

Looking for advice about your company holiday policies?  Want to find out how to improve employee engagement & retention?  Get in touch with us to book a complimentary consultation.  

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