Why taking a holiday from work is good for your career

By | July 24, 2014

holiday_in_mauritius-wide[F]or most people, summer is synonymous with sunshine and taking time off. But as we reach the peak of the season, you might find yourself wondering how you’ll fit in all of your paid holiday days before the weather turns chilly again.

The good news is that as the economy perks up so is the general feeling towards having a break from work. CareerBuilder’s recent survey found 63% of full-time workers plan to use time off to take a trip, up 11% from last year. Although most people know how much paid leave they’re owed, have you thought about whether you will, or indeed should, use it all?

A recent survey from Glassdoor also found the average UK employee only uses three quarters (77%) of their annual leave. This was particularly true for young people in the workplace. Those aged 16-24 were least likely to take all of their holiday allowance, with only 12% using the full amount.

But why aren’t people enjoying the privilege of paid holidays? Stevan Rolls, head of human resources at Deloitte UK, says: “I think it’s mostly just a habit people get into and find hard to stop. I can’t think of any organisations that would encourage people to do this, but it can easily emerge in the culture between team members when the pace of business is so fast.”

If you’re in a first job or set on making a good impression in any new role, you might be tempted to abstain from long periods of time out of the office, only taking short breaks. Even if you do plan to take all of your holiday, an unmanageable workload or unexpected project might mean it’s not always possible. And once the year is up, any unused days off are normally lost.

Not taking proper holidays may seem harmless at the time, or even helpful to your career, but be warned: it can also be damaging. “Evidence shows you become less productive without proper breaks. Even if people work longer hours, they’re not as creative and can’t maintain the same intensity level,” says Penny de Valk, managing director of talent management at global HR services group, Penna.

De Valk urges workers to think of a career as more of a marathon than a sprint. As retirement age creeps up, we’ll be working for longer and need to avoid getting burnt out. So taking a holiday is essential for survival.

It’s important not to rely on your boss to manage your breaks, especially if you’re part of a large team. While good leaders will recognise when an employee needs a rest, no one knows how you’re feeling better than you.

Qualified psychologist, Emma Kenny, says: “If you have a great manager then they will force you to take your entitled leave. If you have the boss from hell, then nothing you can do will be enough.” She suggests if you’re feeling like even if you don’t take time off you’ll never please your manager, you need to reassess and insist on having the leave you’re legally entitled to.

It’s not only your work and mental health that could suffer from not taking proper breaks, advises Colin McAndrew, director at COL HR Limited. “Marriages can breakdown due to people working excessive hours. People taking work home can also put strain on the ability to spend time with family and friends,” he says. McAndrew believes it’s all about finding a work-life balance, which many of the smarter employers place a lot of emphasis on.

If you’ve mastered the art, you may be feeling quite smug about taking your full holiday allowance. But whether it’s fear of missing out on opportunities or simply losing touch, people still can’t seem to switch off when they finally do take leave. Glassdoor’s survey also found nearly half (44%) of employees reported doing some work while on holiday.

The rise of mobile technology and the world wide web could well be to blame. Deloitte’s Rolls believes that because people know it’s possible to be contacted on holiday, then they should respond. The CareerBuilder survey found 17% of employees felt they were expected to check their email, and 8% felt they had to check voicemails while on holiday. So why are people not totally cutting the ties while away from the office?

Like a lot of workplace issues, understanding expectations, and managing them, plays a big part in avoiding potential problems. Having to maintain office contact while away with family or friends can trigger negative feelings towards your boss or workplace. But there are a few things you can do to find out what’s expected of you while you’re off, and also keep any contact that is required to a minimum.

The key is planning ahead and communication. Scott Helmes, managing director at CareerBuilder, advises: “Have the conversation as early as possible before you’re due to take a break, and talk about what is expected in terms of checking in while you’re away.”

He suggests when joining a new company, finding out the busiest times of year, and trying to align your time off around them, to help you feel you really can switch off. Asking what is expected of you while you’re away can also help to ease the tension around going away, and put your mind at rest while you kick back and relax with a cocktail.

by  (theguardian)