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Why is it important to take a break?

Not just a lunch break or a weekend, but actual time off, time away from work? Now more than ever, people are avoiding taking annual leave, often reasoning that they can’t go where they really want to, so they may as well…just keep on working.

Even before the pandemic, this was becoming a problem, with a study in 2018 by Expedia, which included over 11,000 respondents, revealing that instead of blocks of leave being taken, workers were opting for weekend getaways only, with one in six failing to take any leave at all during the year. Following these findings, it’s no surprise to hear that more than a third of full-time employees in Australia have four or more weeks’ worth of annual leave accrued.

“Taking time off is extremely important.” Holly Pryor, psychologist at Bodycare told us. “An unfortunate consequence of extended lockdowns has meant that many employees are reluctant to take annual leave. The effect of this ‘pushing through’ and failure to take a break can have even greater unintended consequences, as we’re seeing more and more people in the workforce reporting that they feel burnt out.”


What is burnout?

Burnout is a severe stress condition that leads to intense physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. While taking leave is not a cure or a surefire way to prevent burnout, it does generally help to reduce stress levels and improve mood. As burnout is a result of unrelenting stress, taking a break from work usually helps to reduce stress levels and helps you regain some equilibrium around the stress in your life.

Holly suggests that “We need to be aware of the signs of burnout and we need to be taking time off to recover from stress, even if we can’t go away on holidays or do the things we would ideally like to do. There are other ways we can give ourselves the break we need.”

How do you encourage people to take leave and avoid burnout?

Here are our top few suggestions:

  • Make it easy: make sure employees can book in their annual leave easily. It should also be easy for someone to discover how much leave they are entitled to and how much they’ve used. If your payroll system can supply this on payslips, make sure everyone knows they can find the information there. Your leave policy should be clear and easy to find.
  • Remind them to make the most of it: use company communications, groups apps, emails to team members and one on one meetings to remind employees about using annual leave. This can encourage people to take time off throughout the year and create a culture where discussions around holidays are open and positive.
  • Share recommendations: encourage your teams to share information about their recent breaks and their favourite holiday locations. Sharing informal messages about great experiences and photos in group chats, company newsletters and other channels can contribute to a culture where taking time off is seen positively. With the pandemic, employees who have taken annual leave may have discovered local secrets that they’re willing to share.
  • Get Managers involved: ensure all Managers are aware of the importance of taking annual leave. It’s also important that they know how to respond to holiday requests appropriately.  This might include ensuring a handover and emphasising that the team member on leave is not expected to check emails while they’re away. It’s important to make sure Managers are taking annual leave too, not only for their own wellbeing but to encourage their team!
  • Promote incentives to take leave: If the company has a benefits scheme, offering discounts on family days out, restaurants, travel, holidays and other incentives can help encourage employees to make the most of their day off.
With the transition to remote working, along with the extended lockdowns more and more employees are working longer hours, putting them more at risk of experiencing the effects of burnout. To help support employees with these challenges, Healthworks has created two new sessions around the themes of Burnout and Making the Most of Your Time off (after all, what’s the point in taking leave and not actually resting throughout it).
As the end of the year approaches, these two new webinars are ideal to ensure your team have the appropriate tools to actually switch off and get the downtime they deserve before heading into 2022. Get in touch if you would like more information.

Author Healthworks

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