“I can’t go on annual leave!”

Why do we find it so difficult to take annual leave?

There are endless reasons why it is difficult to take annual leave.

  • Worry that your work will suffer while you’re away – “What if…?”
  • Feelings of guilt for inadvertently giving extra work to your colleagues – “Everyone is so busy”
  • The culture in many companies may make you feel that you need to show your commitment to work without exception, for fear it may affect your job prospects or promotion. “They won’t take me seriously if I swan off on holiday”
  • The sky-high pile of work on your return just isn’t worth the time away. “It will take me weeks to catch up!”

Ultimately many people feel that the process of preparing to take annual leave and dealing with the mountain of work on return just adds to levels of stress and isn’t worth it.

Advice for taking your leave

How can we take annual leave, and return to work ‘stress-free’?

Booking holidays well in advance can help make sure you don’t talk yourself out of taking time off.

Knowing what your annual or upcoming work commitments are, will help you to identify the ‘less busy periods’ – I chuckled to myself when I wrote that… as we all know, it is always manic in the world of Internal Communications, nevermind any other area of business/work.

If we are honest, there will be more obvious times in our work calandars to avoid, so aim for the least busy.

Let your stakeholders/colleagues know in advance, when you’ll be away.

Top tip from a comms professional

A couple of weeks before my annual leave, I add a single line of red text in my email signature. ‘Advanced notice of annual leave (date from – to)

This helps inform colleagues / key stakeholders in advance. I have found this encourages stakeholders to proactively plan for your absence during those dates.

Talk to the colleagues who will be covering your work while you’re away. Be sure they know what work needs covering so that you don’t return to chaos.

I feel I must mention and acknowledge the additional stresses and constraints faced by parents with school aged children, who have the additional complexity of being tied to specific times of the year to take any annual leave.
We all know these are the more expensive times to travel and would like to hope that all employers take this into account when approving who takes annual leave and when.
This is the bane of any working parent’s life and can often mean taking a family holiday is financially impossible. This is a whole different blog.

Avoid checking work emails or taking phone calls while you’re away. Leave your work phone and/or laptop at home.

If a matter is brought to your attention and you absolutely need to redpond, firstly, qualify what ‘absolutely need to’ means 🤔…

Pause for thought…

  • It is business critical?
  • Will this cause huge implications if you personally don’t respond?
  • Have you already empowered someone else to handle this issue?

Right so, if you really absolutely need to, plan a very short period to assess the work issue and respond only if it is absolutely critical, then switch off.

Do not regularly check, as this will set an example to others that ‘you will work while on leave’ and more impotantly, you also make colleagues feel pressured to do the same and that can cause resentment and trigger a downward spiral.

Just remember annual leave is necessary for you to continue doing a great job.

No one can work optimally without time to switch off and relax. Annual leave should not be seen as an optional extra, we are entitled to it and it is very important to your health and well-being.

‘Me days’

If you are in a position that simply will not allow you take 1 or 2 weeks off work in one chunk, you may want to consider taking ‘me days’.

Book one day off in advance but do not make any plans at all. The only rule is to set the alarm and wake up early to make the most of the day.

Once awake the day belongs to you, to do what ever you feel like doing at that moment in time (not pre-planned), be spontaneous.

If you wake up and feel like going shopping, walking, bike riding, driving, do that, if you feel like having a pj/movie day, do it.

You may say ‘isnt this what weekend is for’ No! The great thing about a ‘Me day’ is it happens during the week, everyone else is out at school or work, giving you time to be you without the need to cater for the needs or wants of others.

The simple fact you are not planning and are spending the day being free of constraints, being spontaneous and simply ‘pleasing yourself ‘ will really refresh you and help you refocus.

I take approximately 4 ‘me days’ a year and they are the most enjoyable, memorable and relaxing days off. Without exaggeration, I feel like I’ve have had a whole week off and had time to reconnect, recharge and relax. (Remember to get up early though 😉 and if you then feel like staying in bed all day that is fine too)

Enjoy your holiday!

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