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Holiday!

Holiday!

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No, this isn’t about a Madonna song (although what a piece that would be!).  Kindly allow me a few minutes to discuss annual leave and how it can positively impact your workforce, their productivity, their wellbeing and – ultimately – the performance and profitability of your business.

I’ve read varied pieces about annual leave; companies who offer unlimited annual leave, those allowing employees to buy (and sell!!!) their holiday and companies who offer enhanced annual leave packages with more days than average.  I’m not here to suggest company policy.  Instead I’d like to highlight the value of managers monitoring the annual leave not taken by employees, encourage managers to actively engage with their employees and discuss why these employees aren’t taking their holiday.

Commonly cited reasons for not taking holiday include the worry of leaving clients for more than a few days and the anxiety that your absence may burden your colleagues.  Don’t forget the fear of the workload awaiting your return… we’ve all had these thoughts.  However I’d argue that a burned-out employee isn’t servicing clients to the best of their ability – issues of presenteeism can come into play here.

I completely empathise with the above, but managers can intervene and help to mitigate this anxiety.  Many managers receive no formal training and may not be aware of best practise for engaging with their employees.  Personally, I value simple weekly one to ones.  My manager works in a different office and we share a video call once a week where we discuss my workload, tasks on the horizon, upcoming holiday that requires cover and the crucial (and always appreciated) question – ‘is there anything I can do to support you?’  My manager has created an environment where I feel safe to provide my candour.

(Whilst not suggesting outright policy changes…) a simple and cost-effective amendment that doesn’t involve employers providing more holiday can be holiday carry-over.  For example, my wife and I are planning a trip to south-east Asia and I really value my ability to carry some of this year’s holiday allowance into next.  Increased workplace flexibility is an increasingly valued employee benefit and can contribute to the attraction and retention of excellent employees.  With proper management, it can also be one of the most cost-effective benefits that an employer can offer.  I’m sure most employers will agree that although recruitment is of course at times completely necessary, it’s costly and time consuming.

Understandably, these conversations between employee and manager could unearth deeper issues about why holiday isn’t being taken.  Perhaps there are financial or mental health constraints. It’s important that managers know how to signpost employees to benefits that are at times, not well publicised.  Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offer an independent outlet for employees to discuss a range of issues.

Also, a simple reminder that taking annual leave doesn’t require you to queue for three hours at Heathrow Airport and buy an overpriced sandwich at Boots before a flight.  Taking a week away from the office and simply binging on Netflix is equally as satisfying.  Having recently bought our first house, finances were re-directed from hotels to house.  I have a week booked off in April.  I plan to sit on our sofa and finally figure out why things are strange, why orange is the new black, who ‘You’ is and, of course, watch Friends for the 1,000th time.

A combination of the above can help your employees feel refreshed and achieve a healthier work-life balance.  Whilst at work, it will equip them to perform at their best and therefore best service clients.  All of this can help to retain clients and build your company’s reputation in the market – leading to new prospects, clients, growth and increased profitability.

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