Do you know what they did last summer? Importance of holidays

You would think that taking holiday is the simplest thing in the world. Most of us living in the western world are lucky enough to benefit from paid annual leave and it should be an easy task to switch off work. Not so. According to CIPD, half of UK workers don’t take their full holiday entitlement each year. Do you know how many of your employees have not yet taken any holiday this year? Do you know why it is important that everyone takes a break every now and then?

Fatigue causes accidents

Melissa Compton-Edwards, author of report Married to the Job, has said: “What should not be overlooked is that excessive hours can have a negative effect on job performance and cause costly or reputation-damaging mistakes. Fatigue-related accidents are potentially life-threatening. Employers need to ensure that they do everything in their power to improve productivity through efficiency improvements rather than by overloading their staff.”

Trusting your team boosts morale

It may be hard to believe this but no, the office won’t fall apart whilst you’re on holiday. Never taking time off is bad for the employee as well as the employer. Relying on your team members and trusting them with the responsibility of covering some of your tasks whilst you’re away improves team morale, allows your colleagues develop their skills and ensures you can better relax while your away. It’s important to switch off properly when you take holiday so don’t just log into your email from a different location. Actually make a point of switching off, full stop.

Breaks improve productivity

Simon Briault of the Federation of Small Businesses told the BBC that “it is important for employees to take the time off they are entitled to. Everybody needs a break to relax and unwind. In the long run, it will be beneficial for the employee and the employer alike, because it helps to reduce ill-health and absenteeism.”

According to an article in the Medical Daily, “researchers found that ‘brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.’ Employees need to detach from their work in order to be more creative and productive. And while these mini breaks can provide short-term stamina, it’s still important to take longer breaks from work to sustain your productivity and reduce stress.” So remember to take breaks and take holiday, too.

Even a short holiday will do

In the UK, a 2-week holiday used to be the norm. According to studies, more people are taking shorter breaks and opting for 9 or 10-day holidays due to financial and time constraints. In some parts of Europe, like Finland, it is customary for workers to take 4 weeks holiday in the summer and work through the rest of the year without a break. This trend has prompted some research into the benefits of shorter and longer holidays. One study by Tampere University found that the relaxation and de-stress benefits of holidays were always fulfilled by the 2nd or 3rd day at the latest.

The same study also found, very interestingly, that the post-holiday benefits felt back at the workplace wore out by the second week back regardless of the length of the time away. So even if it is difficult to find the time for a long holiday, taking just 3-4 days off will also have similar benefits.

Refresh your thinking

Vacation time lets you pursue other interests. For leaders, being away from work environment for a longer period allows time to gain a fresh perspective on the vision for the organisation. For employees, summer holiday is a chance to get away from the rat race that is your inbox and reflect on what long-term goals you want to achieve and how to go about doing that.

Know why employees refrain from holidays

As an employer you may think that it is a bonus if an employee is so engaged they don’t ever want to take time off. However, as listed here, there are many benefits to taking time off and it should be encouraged. It is also likely that the reasons why some employees never take time off are the wrong ones, so to say. They may be worried about the backlog of work they will come back to, they may not trust their colleagues to complete their tasks whilst they’re away or there may be a financial incentive that’s lost when on holiday (the ECJ has ruled that commission should be included in holiday pay to regulate against the disincentive to take holiday, more on that topic here). A line manager should try to find out the reasons behind an employee’s choice not to take holiday.

Track the use of holiday entitlements

Do you know what your employees did last summer? Do you have good records that easily tell you who has taken time off and who hasn’t? The only way to ensure that everyone takes a break is to track holidays properly. An online holiday tracker, like Engage, automatically calculates the remaining entitlements and it can be set to alert line managers if an employee has more than, say, 50% of their entitlement left in September, for example. This also combats the end-of-year holiday rush when a lot of employees flock to book their remaining holidays at the same time because otherwise they will lose their entitlement at year-end.

Find out more about Engage holiday features