“Sorry, Dave is not in today – can anyone else help?”
So often the bearer of bad news, those immortal words can be frustrating to have to call upon and the resulting customer response nothing more than a pain to deal with. After all, only Dave can deal with the enquiry in question and he doesn’t return from his holiday for another two weeks.
What to do? Brush the request off as nothing more than an inconvenience in Dave’s absence or risk using the suggestion that it can wait until he returns, thus leaving the customer query unanswered and in danger of diverting their attention to a competitor?
Annual leave, when viewed in this way, will quickly be loathed by all but those lucky enough to be sunning themselves on a beach in a foreign land. However, when treated with the respect it deserves, annual leave can become an intrinsic part of business success.
This probably sounds counterintuitive; surely with less people on the ground, less can be achieved – no? With key members of staff missing to whom certain skills are a unique asset within the organisation, the business itself will be handicapped – surely?
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight: employees love time off from work. We all do! It helps us recharge the batteries and realign one’s mind following weeks (sometimes, months) of hard work. Without holiday, we’d all be grumpy, less productive and the business would suffer as a result.
To illustrate how much holiday is revered within the workplace, a 2015 study revealed that 40% of workers regard annual leave as the top perk of which they’d like more added to their package. Excluding higher salaries, it beat flexible working hours, working from home and other corporate perks like gym memberships hands down.
So, employees love holiday, but what about companies? How can they learn to love it?
As it turns out, rather easily! In this post, we’re going to look at the most important reasons annual leave can help businesses and employees be more successful than they thought possible.
Trust us – it isn’t just a holiday.
1. It helps maintain performance
Even computers need occasional downtime. Humans are entirely different animals, though – literally. Without regular breaks, it’s impossible for even the most skilled of workers to maintain high levels of performance.
Look no further than professional athletes for a perfect example of this. The fastest 100m sprinter in the world couldn’t break world records every day of the week if they had to run the same race on consecutive days. They need to rest, retrain and rest again before they can hit peak performance once more.
The same goes for employees. The workplace can be a bewildering environment if you’ve been exposed to it for too long in one sitting. What may otherwise by a job you know like the back of your hand can quickly turn into a jumbled, unfamiliar mess if you’ve spent too long on it.
When the wood can no longer be seen for the trees, employees need to take time off. The equation is simple: the more holidays they have, the more consistently they’ll feel recharged and ready for action.
2. Health issues become less commonplace
If you’re the type of person who feels frustrated when a colleague takes a holiday, it’s almost certain you’ll feel somewhat more perturbed when that same person takes regular days off sick.
However, holiday and sick leave are two very different things. The former can almost always be planned for, while the latter usually happens ad-hoc and at completely irregular intervals.
If you can’t predict absence, accounting for the lack of the person in question when they fail to show up for work is incredibly challenging and can throw whole projects off course.
While holidays won’t fix every health issue, the more they’re taken by staff, the healthier they’ll be. Time away from the day job helps bodies and minds realign, muscles relax and immune systems build. As a result, holidaying employees should be healthier and less prone to taking sick days.
3. Inspiration and creativity increases
If your job involves you sitting at the same desk every day, surrounded by the same colleagues, furniture and motivational wall messages, your creativity will probably take more of a hit than it deserves.
A change of scenery is vital to help boost inspiration. Sometimes, a trip or two out of the office to visit customers or suppliers can be the perfect tonic, but it won’t quite replace the holiday’s innate ability to bring out the best in people, creatively.
No matter where holidays are spent, they’ll always be in locations markedly different to that of the workplace. They’ll also offer up new experiences and encounters that will inspire, and inspired, multi-skilled employees are a very good asset indeed.
4. It establishes a layer of trust
Trust between employer and employee is vitally important, and while it can be gained via a number of means (good pay, flexible working hours, autonomy, etc), if the organisation encourages the practice of taking regular holidays, it demonstrates that it trusts its staff to use it as intended and for the betterment not just of themselves, but of the company, too.
No one should ever feel afraid of submitting a time off request. If they are, there’s something wrong.
This is why building a culture that values holiday but which is also transparent in the way it is distributed, granted and encouraged is the key to success.
5. It’s a right; there should be no excuses
As we’ve discussed above, building trust between staff and the company for which they work is a cornerstone of every successful business, yet so many organisations fail at the first hurdle when it comes to holiday entitlement.
If you’ve ever worked for a business that offers menial holiday entitlement, you’ll know that it’s a factor that weighs heavily on your mind. There’ll probably be longer-standing colleagues who have far more than you, joining the many friends and family members who regale you with tales of their own monstrous entitlement at dinner parties.
Holiday is a right, not a luxury, and while providing the bear minimum in order to meet regulatory requirements may feel like a valuable saving in both staff costs and lost productivity, the opposite is true. It’ll cost more in the long run as people get fed up and leave, and result in staff who are tired, overworked and unable to perform to their best.
There shouldn’t be any excuses when it comes to holiday entitlement; provide over and above the norm and your business will be respected by its staff. Respect breeds more productive people – it’s that simple.
6. It makes people happier
We all have goals in life, but few would argue that maintaining a great work-life balance is one of the most important.
Strip that back further, and it could be argued that happiness itself is everyone’s ultimate goal.
Holidays are happy occasions. They help you realise what matters in life and give you the chance to spend time with the people who matter the most. And, if you’re happier, the likelihood is you’ll work harder and to the best of your ability, too.
Feel like you need that break? Take it. Frustrated by a colleague’s second holiday this year? Don’t be – they’ll return refreshed and able to help you far better than when they headed off.
Annual leave is important for the soul, body and mind, but those benefits extend far beyond the person booking the plane tickets. If you run a business or work within HR, it’s your job to help create a working culture that values holiday as one of the guiding principles of business.
Invest time in annual leave and encourage it; ensure people don’t feel inhibited by strict annual leave rules or mean allowances. Happy employees are productive, skillful employees, so give them plenty of the one thing that makes them happiest of all: their own time.