“The weekend absolutely flew by”. It’s a statement uttered in countless workplaces every Monday morning. For most of us, two days a week won’t always be enough time to rest, recover and recharge for everything we need to do at work.
Even with the best wellbeing policies in place, the demands of work can take their toll on your staff’s mental and physical health. Eventually, everybody just needs to take a break.
The importance of ‘taking a break’
An employee’s work-related stresses will build over time and, if left unchecked, inevitably lead to burnout, decreased productivity and a seriously demotivated staff member.
If you want your staff to stay at a peak level, it’s crucial to encourage them to use their annual leave for rest and recovery. Let’s explore the biggest benefits of embracing this mindset as a business owner.
The obvious (and not so obvious) benefits
If you want your employees to work at the highest level, it’s vital to encourage them to spend time not working.
✔ Better physical health: Work-related stress can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure. The New York Times reports that taking 2-week holidays every two years compared to every six will dramatically reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or heart attacks.
✔ Better mental health: Neuroscientists have also found that chronic exposure to stress can alter our brain structure and lead to anxiety and depression. When staff take a break from work it gives their body and mind a chance to recover in ways that they couldn’t if they were still under pressure.
✔ Reduced burnout: Believe it or not, a report by McKinsey has revealed that 49% of the workforce admit to feeling at least somewhat burnt out.
Staff burnout is an employer’s worst nightmare, leading to a drop in performance, or in extreme cases, an employee who is completely unable to work.
Obvious though it may seem, the best way for employees to avoid work-induced burnout is to spend time not working.
✔ Boosted motivation: It’s no secret that staff are more focused and productive when they return from annual leave.
An unrested employee may struggle to find the levels of focus and motivation needed to achieve goals.
Taking time off can boost an employee’s energy, enhance their outlook on work and give them the motivation to take their performance to the next level.
✔ Increased creativity: Want more innovation in your business? Encourage your staff to take time off. Creativity is one of the less obvious benefits of staff using annual leave.
Unrested staff are more likely to perform work in a procedural way, lacking the energy for any extra creativity.
Time away from work gives employees a chance to travel, socialise and experience things ‘out of the ordinary’, all of which can help get their creative juices flowing.
When it comes to annual leave, do know your obligations?
Understanding leave obligations can be a challenge for employers. This FREE E-Guide outlines employee entitlements for permanent, casual and shift workers and can help your business stay compliant.
How to encourage staff using annual leave
Follow these simple steps if you want to encourage your staff to take annual leave and enjoy a healthy work-life balance:
✔ Have a clear leave policy Leave is the right of an employee and a statutory obligation of employers. It’s crucial that you have a leave policy written in your employee handbook.
It should clearly explain how much leave your staff are entitled to, how it accrues, when they can and can’t use it, and the process of submitting a leave request.
By giving all this information, you’ll effectively remove any unnecessary obstacles between your staff and a well-earned break.
✔ Try to accommodate leave requests
While it won’t always be possible to approve a leave, you should do your level best to accommodate requests.
Speak to the employee’s line manager and find out if it’s possible for their projects to be paused or for important tasks to be assigned to other team members. If you do have to refuse a request, be sure to explain why and discuss alternative dates.
✔ Incentivise downtime
Ramp up the appeal of taking time off by offering employee perks such as reduced gym and fitness memberships, or free tickets to the cinema, concerts and sporting events.
✔ Set a good example
Simple as it may seem, this might be the most important step. For your staff to feel it’s acceptable to take time off from work to rest, it’s vital that they see business leaders doing the same.
A culture of overwork often develops from the top down, and you should avoid this at all costs. If you demonstrate a willingness to look after yourself by enjoying a break, your employees are more likely to do the same.
Things to avoid
❌ Penalising anyone for taking leave
Make sure nobody is ever penalised punished for taking leave. This could be direct, such as assigning a heavy workload when an employee returns to work, or indirect, such as overlooking them for a promotion or career opportunity.
❌ Promoting a culture of overworking
In times past, employees were championed as the ‘first to arrive, last to leave’. A culture of overwork normally means two things: first, your staff are not using their normal work hours efficiently, and second, they are probably not using their resources properly.
Late-hour workers shouldn’t be celebrated. Instead, heap praise on staff who finish tasks on time and make sure your staff understand the value of striking a good work-life balance.
If you own an Australian business and have issues surrounding leave entitlements, call our FREE Advice Line on 1300 651 415 to speak with an Employsure expert.