A problem for many organisations is the amount of unused annual leave being “stockpiled” by employees. There are many issues associated with this, including stressed employees, managing rotations, and the growing financial cost. The benefits of regular leave are inherently understood by everyone, so why don’t more employees take all their leave?
Perhaps we can glean some understanding from a just released US study on this issue. While it is not set in an Australian or NZ context associated research by the Avondale Business School into the intrusion of work emails and work/life balance indicate that the issues bare a close enough resemblance.
The study Overwhelmed America: Why Don’t We Use Our Earned Leave? was prepared by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications on behalf of Travel Effect and U.S. Travel Association and released in August of this year.
The main reasons why employees don’t take their leave ?
- Returning to a mountain of work
- Feeling that no one else can do their work
It was also found that the higher up in the organisation, the harder employees felt it was to take leave.
Interestingly, there is also a significant disconnect between employees knowing and understanding the benefits of regular leave, yet not actually taking it.
Why is this?
The study proposes two suggestions. The first is the “Work Martyr Complex” whereby “busyness” is worn as a badge of honour, and often reinforced by the culture of the organisation.
The second is a failure to communicate, evidenced through senior business leaders saying they recognise the importance of time off, but by their own actions they do not effectively communicate this message to employees. For example, a significant number of senior business leaders respond to work related emails and phone calls while on leave – sending the signal that it is not acceptable to be away from the job.
Some suggestions to address these are in the study, and include:
- Talking positively about the benefits of leave, including asking employees about their leave experience upon their return;
- Facilitating employees leave, most importantly through assisting in managing their workloads while they are away’
- Encouraging (in a positive manner) employees to take leave;
- Including taking leave as a performance related KPI.
The 10 second take-away? Employees take your leave (and enjoy it), Employers – lead by example.
If you would like more information about this or related issues, or the ABS research into work/life balance, contact Warrick Long at the Avondale Business School.
P: 02 4980 2168