In a normal year without a pandemic, booking time off work is what gets us through work. It’s a chance to take a break from the daily grind, ignore emails and finally relax, away from all the stress.
Understandably, things have been a bit different this year. Not only has the closure of borders limited our options for travel, many of us have been furloughed, lost income or had to work remotely. And with so much going on, we’ve become more reluctant to take our annual leave.
Back in May, a survey conducted by the staffing agency Robert Half revealed that 37% of workers were delaying taking time off until the second half of the year.
A MassMutual survey of 1,500 people found that more than two-thirds of people have cancelled a summer holiday because of COVID-19. According to a recent LinkedIn study, 70% of those surveyed said they didn’t plan on taking any annual leave days for the rest of 2020.
But with levels of anxiety understandably sky-high among workers, why aren’t we taking our allocated time off to unwind?
In the UK, employees who work five days a week are entitled to a statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks or 28 days of paid annual leave, including bank holidays and public holidays. If you’re self-employed, running your own business or on a zero hours contract, you may not get any holiday leave at all.
Time off work is precious and something we would normally save for a trip abroad or another activity. But with travel off the cards and our budgets tighter for many of us, it can seem like a waste to take annual leave just to stay at home.
With many companies cutting jobs and making redundancies as a result of the pandemic, taking holiday days can feel risky. A recent survey of more than 1,000 US on-site and remote workers, more than a third polled said they felt the need to work more than usual — and 35% of employees said they were too afraid to use their time off.
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Employees may feel under pressure to prove their worth, especially if working from home for the first time. According to a survey of 2,000 people by LinkedIn and the Mental Health Foundation, a quarter said they felt under pressure to respond to requests more quickly than normal — and “stay online” and contactable beyond the end of the working day. As a result, we’re working an extra 28 hours of overtime a month and feeling every minute of it.
For lots of workers, 2020 has felt like a constant battle to stay afloat amid the chaos. Almost overnight, we’ve had to adapt to working at makeshift desks, alongside partners, housemates, children and pets. Although we’ve abandoned commuting, we’ve been forced to participate in back-to-back video calls, away from the physical company of colleagues.
More than half of those surveyed (56%) by LinkedIn said that they felt “more anxious and stressed” about work than they did before COVID-19. A recent survey by Monster reveals that over two-thirds of remote workers are experiencing burnout but aren’t taking enough time off to recharge.
But it’s more important than ever to look after ourselves and switch off properly from work. It may be tempting to power through the year without a proper break, but this is only likely to cause more harm than good.
Not only does taking regular time off work reduce stress and anxiety, it allows us to stay engaged, feel refreshed and improve productivity. So, as we head towards the end of the year, it’s time to make more time for ourselves.