All Work No Play in the UK? Taking a vacation matters for business – here’s why

Rosie Ramirez

27 July 2018    |   

A curious trend is sweeping across the country, and it’s even bigger than football. According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), one in eight employees clock in more than 48 hours a week. Another statistic supports this growing workaholism: in the UK, the average employee takes just 62% of their annual leave entitlement. The latest Glassdoor survey shows that 40% of all employees take only half of their eligible time off, while 13% take only 20% or less. This means that less than half actually take full advantage of their legal annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks. Contrary to what you might think, younger workers aged 18 to 34 are the least likely to go on vacation. And even among those who used their annual leave allowance, 23% regularly checked emails, and 15% continued working anyway. So why does this happen, and what does it mean for the UK? Bad management impacts work-life balance More often than not, it’s bad management practices that lead to insufficient time off. According to a 2018 Qualtrics Employee Pulse study, 52% of workers believe their employer does not promote a healthy work-life balance. And indeed, a high number of managers felt it appropriate to communicate with their employees while they’re on annual leave. Two-thirds of workers also said that their managers don’t help them manage their workload. This is perhaps why many say they could not completely take their minds off work. Chief economist Andy Haldane of the Bank of England shares the idea that “a (lack of) management quality” is the culprit. That is, managers fail to implement basic practices that help employees do their job well. This can range from them performance feedback, to scheduling shifts and leaves, to streamlining work processes. All this results in more hours spent at the office. Results: low productivity and bad mental health You wouldn’t be remiss to think that less annual leave hours mean higher productivity, but the Financial Times reports that output per British worker lagged behind every G7 country except Japan. And in 2018, productivity fell in the first three months compared with the previous quarter. The equation isn’t difficult to grasp: exhausted employees equals weak output and a high turnover rate. And it’s not just productivity that’s suffering, mental health is too. According to the 2018 Cigna 360° Well-being survey, eight in 10 UK workers are experiencing work-related stress, with one in five describing it as ‘unmanageable’. Unfortunately, only a quarter received support from their employers. Mental Health Foundation also reports that many more women report work-related unhappiness than men, with 42% of women possibly finding it difficult to juggle their roles, compared with 29% of men. Work culture needs to change ASAP Better communication at work and removing barriers to scheduling the annual leave is the first step. “Take a day to plan out your holidays. Create a schedule which works for you and your employer, then stick to it. If you don’t do it now, it may never happen,” advises Glassdoor’s John Lamphiere. Some employers use manual leave trackers that indicate different annual leave requests of employees, so planning for a substitute can be done accordingly. These need to be accompanied by other tools such as a free annual leave calculator or timesheet calculator. But obvious implementation problems abound: employees can’t always put the details in, and managers can’t always keep an eye on it, especially when the operation involves more than ten people working various shifts. Considering how unwieldy manual tracking can be, cloud-based time and attendance software and apps are the better alternative. These services let employees file their annual leave requests from their own phones, display a constantly updated leave request calendar, and even let managers approve or decline leaves, all on one system. Payroll integration is also a strong feature that eliminates the need for entering leave calculations twice. It’s unsurprising that many companies today prefer digital workforce solutions over manual ones. Besides annual leave management, they offer staffing optimization and prevent human errors in payroll computation. So whether you’re actively looking for new ways to solve old problems, or just testing the digital workforce waters, getting a free trial is worth it in the long run. Read further “Superheroes don’t work 90-hour weeks” by Michael Cowan “Nation of Workaholics: 40 percent of UK employees take a maximum of half their holiday allowance” on Glassdoor “Employee stress is a ‘mental health timebomb’ – Cigna” by Adam Saville

A curious trend is sweeping across the country, and it’s even bigger than football. According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), one in eight employees clock in more than 48 hours a week. Another statistic supports this growing workaholism: in the UK, the average employee takes just 62% of their annual leave entitlement.

The latest Glassdoor survey shows that 40% of all employees take only half of their eligible time off, while 13% take only 20% or less. This means that less than half actually take full advantage of their legal annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks.

Contrary to what you might think, younger workers aged 18 to 34 are the least likely to go on vacation. And even among those who used their annual leave allowance, 23% regularly checked emails, and 15% continued working anyway. So why does this happen, and what does it mean for the UK?

Bad management impacts work-life balance

More often than not, it’s bad management practices that lead to insufficient time off. According to a 2018 Qualtrics Employee Pulse study, 52% of workers believe their employer does not promote a healthy work-life balance. And indeed, a high number of managers felt it appropriate to communicate with their employees while they’re on annual leave. Two-thirds of workers also said that their managers don’t help them manage their workload. This is perhaps why many say they could not completely take their minds off work.

Chief economist Andy Haldane of the Bank of England shares the idea that “a (lack of) management quality” is the culprit. That is, managers fail to implement basic practices that help employees do their job well. This can range from them performance feedback, to scheduling shifts and leaves, to streamlining work processes. All this results in more hours spent at the office.

Results: low productivity and bad mental health

You wouldn’t be remiss to think that less annual leave hours mean higher productivity, but the Financial Times reports that output per British worker lagged behind every G7 country except Japan. And in 2018, productivity fell in the first three months compared with the previous quarter. The equation isn’t difficult to grasp: exhausted employees equals weak output and a high turnover rate. And it’s not just productivity that’s suffering, mental health is too.

According to the 2018 Cigna 360° Well-being survey, eight in 10 UK workers are experiencing work-related stress, with one in five describing it as ‘unmanageable’. Unfortunately, only a quarter received support from their employers. Mental Health Foundation also reports that many more women report work-related unhappiness than men, with 42% of women possibly finding it difficult to juggle their roles, compared with 29% of men.

Work culture needs to change ASAP

Better communication at work and removing barriers to scheduling the annual leave is the first step. “Take a day to plan out your holidays. Create a schedule which works for you and your employer, then stick to it. If you don’t do it now, it may never happen,” advises Glassdoor’s John Lamphiere.

Some employers use manual leave trackers that indicate different annual leave requests of employees, so planning for a substitute can be done accordingly. These need to be accompanied by other tools such as a free annual leave calculator or timesheet calculator. But obvious implementation problems abound: employees can’t always put the details in, and managers can’t always keep an eye on it, especially when the operation involves more than ten people working various shifts.

Considering how unwieldy manual tracking can be, cloud-based time and attendance software and apps are the better alternative. These services let employees file their annual leave requests from their own phones, display a constantly updated leave request calendar, and even let managers approve or decline leaves, all on one system. Payroll integration is also a strong feature that eliminates the need for entering leave calculations twice.

It’s unsurprising that many companies today prefer digital workforce solutions over manual ones. Besides annual leave management, they offer staffing optimization and prevent human errors in payroll computation. So whether you’re actively looking for new ways to solve old problems, or just testing the digital workforce waters, getting a free trial is worth it in the long run.

Read further

“Superheroes don’t work 90-hour weeks” by Michael Cowan

“Nation of Workaholics: 40 percent of UK employees take a maximum of half their holiday allowance” on Glassdoor

“Employee stress is a ‘mental health timebomb’ – Cigna” by Adam Saville

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About the author

Rosie Ramirez

Our team's goal is to provide practical advice for business owners and managers across industries.

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What You Need to Look for in Payroll Software

Payroll software takes away the hassles of manual calculation of each employee’s pay. It drastically cuts down processing time and errors, which means that your staff always get paid for the right amount at the right time. A quick Google search for “payroll software” shows that there are tons to choose from. But what exactly […]

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Desktop-Based or Cloud-Based Payroll Software?

In today’s rapidly-changing business world, the question is not whether or not you should get a payroll software solution for your business. Rather, it’s what type you should get. Before getting into too much detail, the first question you should ask is whether you should get a desktop-based or a cloud-based payroll software. And understanding […]

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