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Experts have urged employers to prioritise annual leave and promote healthy working habits to avoid burnout, amidst survey findings that employees feel unable to take time off work.

The Annual Leave Allowances survey, conducted by Just Eat for Business, reveals how office workers utilise annual leave allowance, how their employer promotes holiday entitlement, and how time off and flexible working impacts work-life balance.

The survey found that a majority (60%) of employees feel their boss explicitly discourages them from taking time off, while 1 in 10 feel unable to ask for mental health leave.

Furthermore, 1 in 5 office workers are being prevented from taking time off work due to staff shortages and reduced resources – meaning their requests are regularly denied.

This lack of time off is concerning, given that the survey also found 44% of employees report feeling very burnt out, while a third find trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance to be the most stressful aspect of work.

For Will Foster, Professor of Leadership at Keele University, this isn’t acceptable, as he says: “It’s essential that if the ‘espoused’ values of the organisation include employee wellbeing and restorative breaks, then leaders need to allow that to happen and do more than pay lip service. Management must do the hard work of ensuring the structures, roles, responsibilities and staffing levels align so employees can take a ‘true rest’ when needed.”

For Anni Townend, Leadership Partner, organisations should at least look to encourage regular breaks during the working week even if extended annual leave isn’t manageable. She says: “Annual leave is an important part of a much bigger picture of looking after our life-work balance and of creating a positive work culture.

“Increasingly people are realising that there’s huge value in taking micro-breaks during the day as part of managing employee wellbeing, as well as longer macro-breaks like annual leave. The danger of not doing so is that we lose our ability to switch-off and to disconnect from work. This can impact our sleep patterns and our ability to concentrate, as well as cause extreme mood swings and a weakened immune system.”

Claire Lassier, Senior HR Consultant at Pure Human Resources, weighs in on how employers can encourage employees to use their annual leave: 

“Annual leave should never be seen as a perk. Everyone needs a break to maintain their health and wellbeing, and ultimately to maintain their performance levels at work. Some organisations mandate that a set amount of annual leave is taken within each quarter of the year to ensure that employees use leave on a regular basis: others need to limit how much can be taken during their peak periods. 

Restricting the amount of discretionary carry over at the end of the leave year and reminding employees on a regular basis to plan ahead and book time off can help ensure that people take time out throughout the year – for the benefit of the individual and the business alike.”

Rosie Hyam, People Partner at Just Eat, also weighed in on the survey findings: “Given the emphasis on employee well being and work-life balance over the last few years, it’s essential that employers are receptive to flexible working arrangements, and that they allow employees to take time away from work when needed.

“And it doesn’t have to be a big break – organisations may want to carve out some time to ensure that employees can take a break and socialise with colleagues during the working week. This can be done through in-office lunches, socials or team bonding activities.”

To see the full results of the Annual Leave Allowance survey, please visit: https://business.just-eat.co.uk/blog/annual-leave-survey 

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