Sunday June 16, 2013
Earlier this month, WebLoyalty found that 35% of employees will not be taking a summer holiday and a further one in five are cutting down on the overall number of holidays taken throughout the year. Money concerns, anxiety around workload, fear of job losses and the impression it gives to colleagues appear to all play a part in the decision to pass up holiday entitlement.
Yet time and time again research highlights the importance of taking a break – both for the individual and the business. The latest, a ground-breaking project commissioned by tour operator Kuoni and Nuffield Health found that taking a holiday had significant benefits to an individual’s health, wellness and their productivity in the workplace. Not only was sleep improved, some holidaymakers lost weight (there’s an incentive if nothing else!), glucose levels reduced and, one of the core findings, resilience to stress increased. Dr Lucy Goundry, medical director of wellbeing at Nuffield Health commented: “Becoming more resilient to stress is hugely important as most of us will return back to stress when our holiday ends but being more resilient to it helps lay the foundations for improved productivity at work, better energy levels and ultimately happiness”.
For the business, as well as the benefits highlighted by Goundry, holidays also build morale and motivation in the workplace. They can bring teams together, spark conversation and provide creativity. Individuals return feeling refreshed, re-enthused, have clarity and thus can make decisions easier, motivate their people and work smarter. Combine these and you have a strong direct contribution to the success of a business and its bottom-line.
Whilst recognising the importance of taking a break from work (especially lunch breaks, though that’s for another blog…) and encouraging our teams to take regular breaks throughout the year of varying lengths; I also understand why many people avoid the ‘H’ conversation. So, as leaders, how can we encourage our people to take a break? Here are our three top tips:
1. Alleviate fears around taking holiday
In their research, Bupa found that one in seven employees were afraid to ask for a week off work because they were worried their job would be at risk. As an employer, leader, manager; it is your responsibility to ensure employees feel secure in their roles and able to request time off.
This requires open two-way communication. Review your team’s annual leave and if it appears they are accruing holiday; ask them why in your next catch up. Sometimes all it takes is a small reassurance for things to change. Alternatively, you may come across another reason, for example high workload, which can then be discussed and if necessary, solutions put in place.
2. Promote the importance of taking regular breaks
By making R&R part of your DNA, it encourages employees to make sensible use of their holiday allowance. This shouldn’t just focus on holidays though, talk about time management, work-life balance and lunch breaks. If your team spend a lot of time at computers, also encourage five minute breaks away from the screens every hour. And remember, when we talk holiday we don’t just mean an expensive seven days on a Mexican beach resort – people should feel encouraged to take time off from work to rest, be that at home or away.
3. Lead from the top and share stories
Employees follow leaders– it’s a well-known fact. If you’re slaving away at your desk day-in, day-out; skipping lunches and working 365 days a year; your employees (especially new starters) will do the same. So make sure, if you’re a leader, that you too make use of your holiday allowance – remember it’s important for you as an individual to take a break just as much as your employees. And when you return share your stories as this will encourage others to talk to their peers about their time away from the office – boosting conversation and spurring creative thought processes.
Do you believe taking a break reaps rewards? What advice would you offer an individual who feels they can’t get away?