New research shows an increase in the number of workers that are failing to take time off. Around a third of employees have responded that they are too busy at work to take a holiday. 

According to new research from the company e-days, an absence intelligence company, just under one-third of employees (28 per cent) felt that they were too busy at work to take off a holiday. Over half of workers (63 per cent) stated that they have not booked time off as the COVID-19 pandemic had affected their travel plans and felt that they had ‘nowhere else to go’.

In addition, almost four out of 10 employees (37 per cent) have revealed that they have over 14 days of holiday to take before the end of the year. According to the UK law, most workers who work five days a week are entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave. This means that employees are failing to take almost half the time available to them for paid leave.

However, at the same time, mental health is worsening in light of a second lockdown and the continuation of COVID-19. New statistics by YouGov show that almost half (48 per cent) of UK feel stressed whilst just under two-thirds (62 per cent) stated that they felt anxious or worried. Four-fifths of under 25s (80 per cent) have expressed that their mental health has worsened since the beginning of the outbreak.

This is line with statistics collected by Doctor Care Anywhere, a private GP service, which has seen a 32 per cent rise since March for anxiety-related doctor appointments.

Due to this, there is significant concern that business leaders will face both wellbeing and burnout challenges amongst their employees over the winter.

Steve Arnold, CEO of e-days, said:

With International Stress Awareness week taking place between the 2nd and 6th November it is important that organisations realise the impact of these issues. Work-life balance is key to employee wellbeing and helping to avoid any potential burnout.

Providing services that support workforces during stressful periods will lead to a stronger, happier, and more positive workforce. With days growing shorter it is vital that organisations acknowledge the potential impact to employee wellbeing and encourage staff to take time out to prioritise their mental health.

Charles Alberts, Head of Health Management at AON, advises HR staff on how they can adapt their strategy to prioritise employee wellbeing:

Employees that don’t take the time off that they require to rest and recuperate often boils down to an unhealthy company culture which exists at different levels – from team level to whole of company level.

HR plays a vital role in addressing this. Softer interventions involve educating employees and line managers on wellbeing, including the benefits of taking time off.

Education programmes that are tailored to the organisation context can be really effective – for instance, in high performance, competitive environments, getting buy-in may require clearly articulating how rest can help each person perform better. More focused training on stress and burnout is beneficial so that employees and line managers understand the causes, signs and symptoms to look out for in themselves and others, and the need for proactive action.

There are more stringent measures that can be taken, such as minimum holiday criteria (forced leave), disabling transmission of email during certain hours, or even revoking access to the company network during holiday – whilst there are examples of companies doing this successfully, they are fraught with challenges as everyone is different –  people in global roles, for instance, have a need to communicate outside of local working hours, and such measures perhaps fly in the face of greater flexibility and the concept of work/life integration.

I believe the solution lies in company culture, raising awareness through education, a strong focus on health and wellbeing and line managers who are on-board and give their teams they time they need to rest and recuperate.

*This research has been collated from a survey carried out by e-days which collected data from 50,000 people during the 26th October – 1st November 2020.