Your body might be on a beach in Barbados, but that’s no good if you’ve left your brain back in the office. One in three employees are guilty of not using up their annual leave, and those who do go away often remain online, still checking work emails throughout the day. Taking a holiday is important for both staff and businesses, so as an employer, you need to ensure that your employees are taking adequate breaks from work.
Work can at time be all-consuming, so it’s understandable that workers find it hard to switch off, and for many, the fear of falling behind on their workload while on holiday is enough to keep them in the office. However, those running a business need to have processes in place that encourage annual leave, otherwise staff could risk burnout and reduced productivity further down the line. There are a few simple steps you can take to make sure your staff are using their time to relax and recharge.
Encourage annual leave
First and foremost, as a business you need to foster a positive message about annual leave, and engrain it into your company culture so that employees don’t feel guilty about taking time off. Instead, you should encourage your staff to take a break, and educate them on the importance of unwinding and leaving the office behind.
You could also use annual leave as an incentive for reaching targets, and this will help to reassure staff that taking time out is a good thing. For example, you could offer staff the chance to acquire an extra days’ holiday if targets are met early, or to take an early finish on certain days; at CV-Library we have a policy in place where employees are allowed to finish work an hour early on their birthday.
Keeping track of your employees’ annual leave, will help you to pick out any repeat offenders, and remind them that they should make use of their holiday allowance. Sending out email reminders periodically throughout the year could prompt employees to book their time out; or for those who are particularly adverse to taking a break, you could even arrange a face-to-face meeting, and wish them a happy holiday. This could be all it takes to reassure them that it’s okay to take a time out, and it might even help them relax while they’re away.
Put simple processes in place
Your business should make the process of booking holiday easy; some staff may be deterred by the mere thought of paperwork or the hassle of chasing senior members of staff to get their holiday signed off. Making this part of their holiday as simple as possible means staff won’t dread trying to organise time out of the office, and could make employees more inclined to take some time away.
Make sure handover processes are also in place, so that your staff don’t have to worry that their workload is piling up in their absence; this could be achieved through a team meeting, via email, or both, so that their team is aware of what needs to be done. Similarly, activating ‘out of office’ responses helps employees relax that bit more, as they know that urgent enquiries will be picked up by someone else. In our offices, the HR team automatically switch these on for anyone on annual leave, so that staff can rest assured that everything will be taken care of during their time away.
Suggest a switch off
Once your staff have booked their time off, you should reiterate to them that this is a break, and suggest a digital detox. Today’s society is always switched on and connected, and if your staff have access to their emails from their phone of laptop they could still be tempted to check in, whether they’re at home or abroad. Businesses should encourage staff to disable their emails and leave the laptop at home, as a mental break from the office can be just as important as a physical one. For those team members who do insist on checking in with work while they’re away, you should make sure that they know this isn’t obligatory, and recommend that they dedicate no more than an hour each day.
The reality is that some employees will find it easier to switch off than others, so as a company you should ensure that your staff are taking sufficient breaks to recharge their batteries. Everyone is entitled to time off (including the boss!) and it’s important to take a positive approach towards annual leave, and make it a solid part of your company culture. Keeping employees refreshed and healthy is key to business success, and businesses that encourage their staff to switch off and recharge are likely to see increased productivity as a result.
Lee Biggins is the founder of CV-Library.
Further reading on holidays