Recently, a survey found that many UK workers are not taking their entitled holiday. This is horrifying news – as it has confirmed many people’s worst fears that Britain will be the next victim of the ‘overwork culture’ which has spread from Japan, claiming both happiness and lives in the process.
Whilst it may seem dramatic to create a frenzy over skipping annual leave, the repercussions can be quite alarming. Without breaks, people are at serious risk for issues like burn-out, fatigue and anxiety – which hinder both their personal and professional lives.
As a professional woman, there can sometimes be a tendency to pursue working to the extreme limits in order to push yourself forward. This is a natural by-product of trying to move up the talent pipeline and get ahead of our peers. However, continuously working without breaks or little rest can be highly limiting and dangerous, especially if you’re juggling it with further personal responsibilities. More alarmingly, skipping days of annual leave means we end up working for free and this benefits no-one.
Overworked employees can be left miserable and demotivated. And it isn’t good for employers either (due to the knock-on effects on productivity, as how someone feels will impact their work and contribution to the business). Plus, the gender pay gap that we still see continuously reported does not need to be fed further by people refusing their well-earned holidays.
Whilst working hard will help anyone to get ahead, mindlessly going through work whilst stressed and exhausted – both emotionally and physically – is good for no-one. Learning to check in with yourself, your body and mind is vital. Underpinning these ‘check ins’ which will prevent mental crash-and-burns, is the use of annual leave, to disconnect from work, re-charge and come back re-invigorated and ready to tackle the challenges at hand. The benefits of relaxation and taking time away from work are unbelievable, and this has undoubtedly been proven by shifts we’re seeing across the world.
For example, recently, a café in Madrid promoting naps opened to the public. The fitness world is also taking note, moving away from ‘high intensity training’ to favour ‘low intensity training’ and encouraging people to take plenty of rest. In fact, one well known gym chain has even introduced napercise, as it recognises how few of us actually get enough sleep due to our hectic lifestyles. Resting your body is important when working out frequently – so the same must be applied to our minds. They both need a break.
Besides, taking annual leave will not only benefit your working life, it will undoubtedly benefit your personal life too.
By travelling or taking time off to explore the area in which you live, you can open your mind to new cultures and experiences, improve your physical health or work on relationships with the people you care about. Even simply turning off your emails and dedicating your time to activities and people you enjoy the company of is enough to refresh and revitalise.
If a staycation still seems out of reach, perhaps a few long weekends here and there would be useful: consider booking off the occasional Monday or Friday to provide a shorter working week and a longer period for rest. Investing in face-to-face time instead of relying on social media will do wonders for your mood, as social media can induce feelings of jealousy or anxiety due to the picture presented.
Nobody can take your leave for you, and it’s your legal right. It’s a benefit you should take full advantage of, and utilise properly to make sure you have restorative periods throughout the year, to benefit both your personal and professional wellbeing and keep yourself fresh and pro-active. That way, you can be sure that you’ll achieve the goals you’ve been working so hard for in the first place.
About the author
This article was provided by Laura Little, Learning and Development Manager at CABA.