Why you need to take time off over the holiday season

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

Traditionally, many employees will enjoy taking time off over the holiday season. With many businesses shutting down between the Christmas and New Year period, it’s a good opportunity for workers to lock in some quality time with family and friends, while recharging their batteries for the year ahead.

In Australia, annual leave is a legal requirement, however many employees still worry about taking time off.

Some employees might feel guilty about adding to the workload of others. Others may be worried they might not have a job to come back to if they take their annual leave. And unfortunately, many people think they’re simply too busy to take a break – winding down might not even seem worth it, due to the amount of work they know they’ll come back to!

Are you worried about taking time off this holiday season?

Please read this, and think about the importance of taking proper time off over the holiday season. By taking a break, you’ll be doing the best thing for your wellbeing, your employer, and your career.

Reasons why employees don’t take holiday leave

Why are so many employees deciding against taking time off, choosing to work through the holiday season instead?

There could be many reasons why your staff members aren’t taking their annual leave. Or why you’ve made the decision yourself not to take time off.

In such a competitive job market, many workers fear that they could be replaced during the break, or the job could go to someone else if they take leave and are unavailable.

In other cases, it may not seem worth it – taking time off only to return to an overflowing inbox of URGENT emails. Most of us have been in this situation at some point, returning from a relaxing holiday to a giant pile up of fresh deadlines and meeting invites greeting you at your desk.

As psychologist Sarah-Jayne Whiston explains, fear of taking annual leave is “a common occurrence in workplaces. It’s that sinking feeling if you leave your work, the emails and things to do list will keep mounting, so taking time off will mean you have to come back to even more work,” says Sarah-Jayne.

What can employers do to promote annual leave?

As an employer, it’s a good idea to be mindful of the stresses that the holiday season can bring. If you’ve noticed your team members are hesitant to down tools and switch off, think about how you can encourage them to take time off.

Reassure your employees of the security of their jobs in the new year, to encourage workers to take the leave days that they legally have a right to.

For employees who are worried about their team members having to pick up the slack? Take steps to promote a collaborative work culture, emphasising a workplace environment of trust and knowledge. When teams work in collaboration, they support one another to accomplish team and organisational goals.

This way, staff members shouldn’t feel stressed or guilty about taking time off, feeling able to trust their team mates to pitch in and carry the work load in their absence.

Managers should make sure all teams are properly covered during annual leave periods, and allow staff adequate desk time when they return to work after a break, to catch up on their emails and in-trays.

Recognise when you need to take a break from work

While managers and employers have a responsibility to encourage staff members to take a break, at the end of the day you also have a responsibility to yourself. As an employee, it's up to you to manage your stress levels and time off, to avoid burning out.

Not taking enough time off work can have huge impacts on your mental, physical and emotional health. Which will also have a negative effect on your work relationships and personal life.

Taking time off from work isn’t just about your own wellbeing. You might think that you’re being a work hero by not taking holidays, but refusing to take proper breaks isn’t the best thing for your team mates or employer.

Increased stress and anxiety, exhaustion and burnout will all result in lower performance and productivity levels for your organisation.

"Evidence shows you become less productive without proper breaks. Even if people work longer hours, they're not as creative and can't maintain the same intensity level," says Penny de Valk, Managing Director of talent management at global HR services group, Penna.

With our current obsession and celebration of ‘busyness’ it can be hard to step away from work, as it’s often linked to our feelings of self-worth and achievement. But running on low levels of creativity and productivity isn't really helping anyone – you, your boss or your clients or customers.

Take that well-deserved break and return to work in the new year full of fresh energy, ideas and motivation!

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