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Employees failing to take holiday risk their mental wellbeing and performance

Four out of ten employees have taken less holiday since the pandemic, according to new research. A new study from Acas and YouGov found that 39% of UK workers took less paid time off work during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the year before, with employees from small and medium-sized businesses the least likely to take paid time off.

Adrian Lewis, Commercial Director at Activ Absence is urging HR teams to encourage employees take up their annual holiday leave to protect their mental wellbeing and performance. He says: “Since the start of the pandemic staff have been accruing holiday, as many decided not to take time off when they couldn’t travel during lockdowns. While restrictions have eased and travel abroad is opening, many people are still put off travelling abroad because of the costs of tests and risks of quarantine rules changing at the last minute.

“This means many employees are postponing holiday leave again, which could be storing up problems for the future with employees suffering burnout and other mental health issues due to not taking any break.”

In May 2021, data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that depression rates have doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began and people have been working remotely, highlighting a growing mental health crisis in the UK.

A recent study from virtual team building company Wildgoose, found that 44% of employees had a heavier workload while working from home, and almost a third said this is having a direct impact on their mental health, stating that they have felt depressed, anxious, or suffered from exhaustion.

Lewis adds: “Employers need to really encourage their employees to take their allocated annual leave. Holidays are vital for good wellbeing and employees need to take time off at regular intervals. For any business, having holidays carefully planned and spread through the year and not left to the end of the year helps is essential for effective resource planning.

“One solution to help companies encourage people take their holiday leave and help avoid holiday clashes is to invest in a digital HR system. Absence management software gives companies access to data and reporting tools, so they can see in real-time who is off when, track trends, such as someone taking a lot of sick leave as well as ensure there are no holiday clashes. It also provides an overview of who has leave left to take.

“This can prompt bosses to send email reminders to staff to get holidays booked in sooner rather than later before the end of the year, and hopefully avoid a rush of requests in November and December. This is beneficial both for employee wellbeing but also for the company to ensure they are fully staffed at all times.”