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Does Annual Leave Accessibility Increase Employee Productivity?

Note: The opinions in this article are the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Shortlister! 

Annual leave is a popular incentive and a basic part of the employment package. However, it can present challenges for businesses that experience substantial seasonal increases in activity or where lean teams and resources are already stretched thin. According to research, the accessibility to annual leave can significantly impact employees’ productivity and provide many benefits to the company overall.

TravelOnline.com surveyed 10,000 travelers about their holiday habits by looking at the connections between work and travel. The survey found that 66.5% of travelers fail to use all of their annual leave each year, and the number one reason attributed to this was guilt. 

Why don't Employees take Vacation Days?

The survey revealed that 65.8% of people experience guilt when requesting time off work for holidays. Workplace guilt can come in many forms and often makes employees question whether they truly deserve a holiday. For example, many employees believe that taking a holiday will make them appear less dedicated to their job. Others fear they will be seen as replaceable.

Another common reason cited for failing to take annual leave is the fear of returning to a mountain of work. The survey found that 4% of people avoid taking holidays because “their work needs them more than anyone else.”

Others were concerned that their workplace would struggle without them and that other team members would be incapable of managing their workload. As a result, 9% of those surveyed revealed they had not taken a holiday in over two years. Of the 65% that experience workplace guilt, 16% conceded that the guilt is irrational and “probably just in their head.” But is it?

The Influence of the Employer

Employers are responsible for the welfare of their staff, and if taking annual leave is not encouraged, or worse still, looked down upon, then the negative effects of employee burnout can be felt throughout the whole organization. At best, you’ll be dealing with a snarky team who’s not performing, and at worst, you’ll be wasting time on an ongoing hiring process when an adverse workplace culture leads to a revolving door of staff turnover. However, breaking the cycle has proven to have wide-ranging benefits for both staff and employers.

Annual Leave Benefits

According to Heads Up and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, at an individual level, the benefits of employees taking their annual leave include reduced stress, lower risk of anxiety and depression, and improvement in mood resulting in a happier and more productive workforce. This, in turn, boosts immunity, with people who take holidays less likely to get sick.

On an organizational level, improved morale and higher productivity levels are the by-products of a well-rested and motivated staff. It also increases employee retention and decreases unplanned absences.

You only need to look at the blueprint set forward by highly successful businesses like Virgin and Netflix. To encourage their employees to take annual leave, you have introduced an unlimited paid leave scheme suggesting staff take what leave they want when they want.

Conclusion

While this may not be a business model that works for all organizations, it’s a clear indication of the importance of workplace culture around the use of annual leave and its mutual benefits for both employers and employees. By making annual leave more accessible, organizations can develop a more robust and resilient workforce and increase employee productivity.