A recent study by Avios has found that a quarter of people are not taking their full holiday entitlement due to guilt, stress and money. Furthermore people are cancelling their holidays due to being too busy or because their bosses asked them too.
Dr Linda Papadopoulos shares her thoughts on this growing trend during the most popular time of year for holidays.
Why is there a perceived guilt over taking holiday by some workers and how can people learn to let go of that guilt?
I think the guilt is around because we are living in an old fashioned working environment where we all feel very lucky to have our jobs and we like to be seen to be working really hard. As a consequence, we want to prove to our bosses and prove to ourselves that we can work extra hard. I also think there is guilt because there is a misunderstanding about the benefits not only for ourselves but actually in terms of our productivity for our employer when we feel less stressed.
I think there's a sense that people feel they should work all hours of the day in order to be their most productive. Research has shown that if you are able to take some time away, you are much more likely to me mentally acute, creative and therefore more productive at your work.
Why do people who are stressed forgo their holiday rather than taking it? Are they not the most in need of a break?
Most people who we surveyed- who were feeling stressed and tired were coping by cancelling their holidays. I think the reason for is that people feel more in control by not changing. They feel that if they continue to do the same thing then they will eventually sort themselves out. People can sometimes become incapacitated by stress. For people in new jobs, there is a sense that they need to prove something to their employer and colleagues and that they don't want to let them down.
Why do people cite money as a reason not to take holiday when in most workplaces holiday pay is given?
I feel people don't understand the benefits of holidays. It doesn't have to be a 7* hotel in the Maldives, it doesn't have to be a long stay. Taking a day or two off and taking your kids to the zoo or to see the skyline of London or a B n B for some time with your partner can be enough. It's not necessarily about money- that is the go to place when feeling stressed 'I couldn't possibly do it, it's going to take up too much time and too much money.' If you break it down and recognise what the benefits are; for most people it wouldn't be the case.
How can cancelling a holiday affect a romantic relationship and a family bond?
We found that it can affect it quite seriously, one in four people refused to go on holiday with someone again after their holiday companion cancelled on them. Especially for young kids- if you have promised them a holiday, it's not the easiest thing to break it to them, just as it's not ideal breaking it to a loved one either. Let's not forget that this is family time- it not only benefits the individual but it can also benefit the family in terms of bonding and increased family time. It's needed more so in this connected world we live in. If you have planned something, look forward to it and then it's taken away, it can be difficult to reconcile.
Why is there this notion now that the longer we work the more productive we are?
We need to take into account that productivity is to do with quality of work; not on the amount of time spent there. If you look at psychological studies around this- people feel that if they spend lot of time in the office they will get lots of work done. We all have peaks and troughs in our levels of productivity and those peaks come after periods where we feel less stressed and when we are feeling more physically and mentally more acute. This is why holiday time is mandatory across a lot of professions. You wouldn't stop ambulance drivers, doctors or lawyers having their down time. There is a reason for that, people do get burned out and they do need that time away. I think it's really important to say here; we're not suggesting spending thousands of pounds. We are talking about some time to switch off from work and switch on to what's going on inside you, your home, your relationship and your family.
What are your thoughts on bosses asking employees to cancel holidays? Is this acceptable?
I think if you're cancelling a holiday for a genuine reason; an illness, for your family or you have lost your job- something very big- I understand. If it's just that you're stressed, I always say to people- think about it in terms of the cost benefit analysis. Those days you are away- how are they going to impact you when you get back? In what way and what is the impact on your relationships? If you have promised a partner or group of people you will go on holiday, going back on that is always going to have some sort of effect on the relationship. Take into account all of those things before proceeding.
Why might a shorter break or a day off here and there be the answer compared to longer stints away from work?
They are more manageable for a lot of people- mostly financially but they are able to fit around a lot of people's jobs too. If you do have 14 days holiday- being able to space them out means you could have a constant level of feeling relaxed and something to look forward to.
One of the things I do myself and I tell my clients to do is to have stuff in the diary to look forward to get you through those difficult days.
What is the psychological impact on someone who gives themselves a regular rest from anything work related?
In psycho-physiological studies we have found things like blood pressure being reduced, increased sleep quality and increased ability to cope with stress.
Finally as part of this campaign and your own work you must be even more aware of the need to switch off- do you have any tips from personal experience for those struggling to find ways to unplug from the working world?
Firstly, think of the reasons why- you are a human being not a 'human doing' and I think in the western culture we value ourselves on just what we do. Being able to stand still and experience new things and interact with people is fundamental. Secondly- plan it- there is nothing like putting something in the diary that makes you want to do it. If there is someone in your life that is a better planner than you then get them to take the lead on that.
Thirdly- do something that excites you because you are much more likely to stick to it- an activity or a holiday or whatever it might be- something new and fun.
Finally, no matter how much of a workaholic you are- burnout is not a badge of honour and you really shouldn't buy into that. Developing those self-care skills to learn how to maximise your time off is fundamental to being able to function in work and at home.
Dr Papadopoulos worked with Avios on research into how people use their holiday allowance. For more information please visit www.domorewithavios.com
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