Out of Office: The Business Cost of Employees Not Taking Holidays on Work-Related Stress
The year’s final weeks can be the most mentally demanding, with extra work pressures and a busy social calendar. Onebright mental health experts share their advice on encouraging employees who are not taking holidays to rethink their decision and how prolonged work-related stress affects those continuing to work.
The often overwhelming month of December is when many of us rush to finish projects before the end of the year and sign off as much as we can. Especially now, as more companies are downsizing teams, workers are stretched to keep up with the demands of a full work schedule and impossible deadlines. Unsurprisingly, more people are not taking annual leave as a result.
According to a 2022 Glassdoor survey on burnout, only 60% of workers had used their full holiday entitlement in the past year, and 18% of under-25s admitted to taking zero annual leave over the previous 12 months. In the poll, only a third of employees said their employer encouraged them to take the total amount of annual leave available to them.
Tired vs burned out
Rest and sleep are two different things, but both are equally important to your mental, emotional, and physical health. Lack of adequate rest breaks, whether during the day, week or year, can reduce focus and stifle creativity and productivity. It’s also not just mental health that can suffer from not taking time out either. Overworking has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other health issues.
In specific industries, such as hospitality and retail, the holiday season can be a particularly busy and highly demanding time of year, which will likely take a toll on the mental health of the whole team. There is a business cost for employers and management teams with employees not taking holidays or committing to extra hours without the right mental health support. We’re talking about high turnover and lower productivity.
What are the signs an employee is burned out and should be encouraged to take time off?
Burnout is much more than being tired and not enjoying your job. Experiencing burnout means losing connection to the reason and purpose for doing your role. Employee behaviours will change, and here are some signs to look out for:
- Expressing anxiety about their workday
- Distancing themselves emotionally from the job and their work colleagues
- Increased frustration and irritation with colleagues and their work environment
- Feeling negatively about the job
- Reduced performance at work
- Being cynical and critical
- Using something to make themselves feel happy (food, alcohol, drugs, excess shopping or exercise for example)
Do UK employees need to take their annual leave?
There is currently no legal obligation for an employer to encourage or forcibly stop an employee from working over the holiday period and not using their annual leave days.
However, annual leave is vital to promote good physical and mental health in the workplace and improve employees’ work-life balance. It allows individuals to take time to rest and re-energize, which can result in stress reduction and improved mood.
What are the mental health benefits of rest and recovery?
Rest reduces stress, gives people the opportunity to be more active, works against the many detriments of a sedentary lifestyle, and boosts immunity. It enhances sleep quality, which can, in turn, improve decision-making, brain performance, and mood.
What are the business benefits of employees taking breaks from work?
Aside from the benefit of higher staff morale, the research into the business benefits is detailed and undoubted: Rest plays a significant role in the health of your organisation.
Studies have shown that breaks lead to higher productivity, greater job satisfaction, more balanced emotional health, and a stronger desire to go above and beyond. Employees who take time away from work to rest return to work with more mental energy, creativity, productivity, and even sharper memories.
Gallup also found burned-out employees cost £2,800 out of every £8000 in salary because they are disengaged in their work.
Disengagement can often arise from employees feeling like they’re working too hard for little in return. It’s important to show your employees how much you appreciate them and recognize their efforts. When you take actions that show mental health is a priority in the workplace, you’ll keep engagement levels high.
How can Onebright help businesses reduce work-related stress among employees?
Onebright specializes in delivering on-demand mental healthcare for UK businesses at scale. Our clinically-driven approach allows you to harness the power of mental health data that is specifically relevant to you and the needs of your team. Every team is different. When partnering with Onebright, businesses gain insights into potential problems before they arise, supporting you in making more informed decisions about employees not taking holidays and the well-being of your people.
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