A sandy beach in a sunny location with a small glass bottle and a note inside reading 'out of office'.
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Want to perform better in your job? Spend more time away from it

21 Aug 2019

In light of new research showing the number of holidays left untaken in the US, learn why taking time off is critical in business.

Asking for holidays from work can be intimidating. You might want to show that you’re committed to the job and don’t want to leave colleagues with extra work in your absence. You might not want to ask for time off as soon as you’re in the company door, but aren’t sure when it becomes OK to start requesting a few days away from the office.

But taking your allocated annual leave days shouldn’t be guilt-inducing. In fact, making sure you use them as much as possible is incredibly important and can benefit your career in the long run.

The US Travel Association has just published new research on attitudes towards taking vacation days. In total, 768m days were reportedly left untaken last year in the country. With many employers disallowing holiday time to be carried over into the next working year, this resulted in $65bn in lost benefits.

This is by no means a new phenomenon, nor is it limited to the US, as shown by last year’s IrishJobs.ie survey. It showed that more than a third of the Irish workforce (37pc) didn’t use their full annual leave allocation in 2017. Even for those who did manage to take some time away from their job, a third still spent time working while on holiday.

According to Balance Careers, this trend is unhealthy for both employers and employees. Time away from external stresses, which are often present in our jobs, is integral to our restoration. And the less we give ourselves a chance to both mentally and physically unwind, the harder it gets.

Challenging the negative stereotypes around using allotted holidays is now more important than ever before with global technological advances tying us more tightly to our virtual workbenches.

Employers have a responsibility to remind their staff that time away from work should be meaningful, rather than sitting beside a pool and checking emails remotely. Encouraging staff to switch on an out-of-office automated response is an easy first step.

And holidays aren’t just beneficial to employees. On a practical level, encouraging staff to take time off allows you to cross-train your employees to pick up on tasks when their team is down a member. It also gives employers the chance to assess the productivity levels of the people they manage when someone is out of the office for a period of time.

At the end of the day, annual leave can be mutually beneficial, with increased productivity levels in staff after a recharge ultimately leading to greater job focus.

Highlighting the importance of days away from the workplace, whether they’re paid or not, is a step that employers and employees alike should consider taking towards the coveted goal of work-life balance.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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