We all know what a heavy load COVID-19 has placed on NHS staff and other key workers. Away from the front line, we’re less sure of how work pressures are playing out. But, up until 2020, business-related burnouts were depressingly common, costing the UK economy some £1.4bn every year.
As a responsible employer, you’ve surely understood that it’s a good idea to encourage your staff to use up all their holiday entitlement. You’ll be aware that the ones who skimp on their annual leave are likely to show reduced productivity, besides being predisposed to absenteeism and illness. You may even have experience of the tendency of such staff to ‘fake it’, feigning illness to get the respite which they can’t allow themselves by legitimate means.
But all this begs a significant question: what turned former model employees to the dark side? All too often, Britain’s bosses have received the depressing answer: ‘You’.
Statistics reveal that one in five UK managers is a ‘presentee’ – a person who might tell their employees to take their holidays…but who then fails to take up their own. Such bosses give out fatally mixed messages, paying lip service to the importance of leave while their own behaviour suggests otherwise. As most of us are presently engaged in making plans to reopen our offices, this is a good moment to tackle such work-related problems head-on.
There are several giveaway symptoms of presenteeism, ranging from the pernicious habit of skipping lunch to more complex displays of self-deception. For instance, have you ever kidded yourself that you were skipping holidays to get you through a busy period…but then failed to make up the shortfall? If so, a red light is flashing on a panel somewhere.
But we’re not in the business of blame. Instead of threatening you with the stick of self-diagnosis, we’re going to lure you with the juicy carrot of benefits. Here are four positives associated with leave-taking.
#1 Taking leave sets a good example
Responsible bosses respect their employees’ time off. Good bosses respect their own. Taking time off sets a healthy precedent for your business. By giving yourself permission to have a life outside work, you extend the same privilege to your employees…helping them to be happy and effective.
#2 Taking leave says “I trust you”
A manager who won’t take leave sends out a message of distrust. If you refuse to quit your desk, you’re demotivating your staff. How are they going to grow if you deny them the experience of taking charge? By taking a break – and delegating responsibility – you show them that you trust them and want them to be capable of independent decision making. (You can always time your absence for the quiet season.)
#3 Taking leave helps maintain a healthy balance
How did you respond the last time you were asked what you’re doing at the weekend? If the question fazed you, you’ve had a clear indication that you need time out of the office. Work/life balance is more than a cliche, even if the soft sell makes you feel like you’re being prepared for early retirement. Developing relationships with family and friends, putting creative energy into a hobby, participating in sport, volunteering at a local charity…all these activities matter.
#4 Taking leave promotes creative thinking
Keep your nose to the grindstone, and you’ll narrow your focus. New surroundings, shifts in routine, travel…they all fuel creativity. No one seriously expects you to leap out of a spa bath yelling ‘Eureka!’, but you never know. Opening your mind to new experiences can’t be bad for your business.