Why is Annual Leave so Important?
Aside from the ‘bottom line’ importance to an organisation of not accruing an overly high leave liability, there tends to be overlooked or de-prioritised benefits in ensuring that employees take their annual leave each year. Sometimes employees feel that taking leave of any kind is almost a sign of weakness or that they are letting the team down in some way because their absence puts additional responsibility onto others.
Whilst our culture at OPC does not support this sort of thinking, as one of those people who has been a reluctant leave taker, I can attest to being guilty as charged! However having just returned from three weeks away on a holiday overseas I am well and truly reformed. It had been many years since I had taken that much time off work, squeezing in only a week or so here and there. I am not a deliberate leave hoarder, there just never seemed to be enough or the right time to take a long break. After the furore of trying to get every possible thing up to date and ready for handover before I left I felt sure that I would be a nervous wreck the entire time I was away. My typical work habits involve very long hours anyway, all part and parcel of business ownership, but the lead up to the holiday was even more intense.
So yes, stressed and anxious was how I left the country. Not any reflection on my colleagues in whom I had every faith, more a case of worrying about all the things I had missed or forgotten to cover off with them and concerned for the extra pressure they would be under. Amazing how that all changed once I realised that I would not be able to take phone calls or access emails 24/7, or influence anything in a meaningful way from abroad. It was very good for the soul and I felt the separation anxiety drain away.
Once that happened I was able to really enjoy the break. My brain unravelled, I reconnected with my family and did not talk about work (well not much anyway). Travelling was inspiring – not only because it refreshed me but because I took away so many great ideas for our business along the way. It made me realise how consumed by work I had become and also made me conscious that I had to go back and ensure that our staff were not in the same position. We are blessed with many highly committed individuals on our team and I vowed to encourage a better balance between the needs of our business and their needs.
An article called Aussies: Reluctant to Take Annual Leave by Tiffany Hoy of Big Fish Global Consulting Group suggests that I am not alone in either my experience of taking leave or in my endeavour to encourage a holiday friendly workplace. See (http://www.bigfishgroup.com.au/live/newsletter/12/january/article3.php).
According to sources in the article, Australian’s take only 15 of their 20 entitled annual leave days, which nationally leaves 118 million days of annual leave stockpiled, which equates to 350,000 years of holidays and $33.3 billion in wages. Benefits to business in encouraging the taking of leave, aside from the balance sheet alluded to earlier, also include keeping OH&S obligations in regard to duty or care, a potential reduction in absenteeism and sick leave, and above all, happier, more attentive and productive staff.
To be fair there are legitimate reasons why some staff stockpile leave. These relate to saving up leave entitlements to go on an extended holiday, maybe extending parental leave or cashing in some surplus leave where that is permitted. However these motivations must be weighed against burn out and diminished job performance and satisfaction which can arise from lack of rest. The article mentions that by encouraging leave businesses will be rewarded with staff that are ‘switched on and firing instead of constantly gazing out the window’.
Certainly after my own holiday I have to agree with that! Now, where to next…?