COMPANY CULTURE / AUG. 30, 2014
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How Does Your Employer Treat Holidays?

locked to the chair

It’s pretty well known that holidays are good for us, both as employees and employers.  The opportunity to take a mental break from things not only allows us to recharge our batteries, but often supports the formation of innovative ideas.

Except the reaction to holidays, from employers and employees alike is all rather peculiar.  A survey into our relationship with holidays from work was conducted this year by the employment website Glassdoor. 

Taking no holiday at all

The survey revealed that some 15% of American employees had not taken a single one of their due holidays in the past year.  Not a single sneaky afternoon off. 

The attitude of these employees toward holidaying often spreads into other aspects of their work.  For instance, they often suck at delegating, and will make colleagues feel bad if they don’t share their workaholic tendencies.  Their ego also makes them think that the office, and their work, will grind to a halt without them. 

The career prospects of workaholics

Of course, there’s a case to be made that such behaviour is simply rational.  For instance a study from 2006 found that men were much more likely to skip their holidays than their female colleagues because they believed that doing so would improve their job security.

It sounds wrong, but it might not be.  A recent Oxford Economics survey found some worrying evidence from managers keen to reward such behaviours.  For instance, 13% of managers said they would be less likely to promote someone that had used up all of their holiday allowance.

The study also revealed that those employees that used up less than their full allowance of holiday leave would usually earn nearly 3% more than their peers who had taken up their full allowance.

So why don’t people take up their holiday leave?

Aside from the career prospects I mean, which you suspect are something of a shot in the dark, and not a real reason behind people behaving as they do.  A Dutch study suggests that a big reason is that people are so concerned about the backlog of work that awaits them upon their return that they can’t see the point in going away at all.  This makes the recent email policy at Daimler seem eminently sensible.  They recently recommended that all employees change their out of office email.  The new message would tell senders that they are on holiday, and that all emails will be deleted upon their return from holiday.  If the message is really important, please resend when they get back.

Made of the right stuff

When I was at school, they would give out badges at the end of year for the fortunate child that never had a day off sick.  This is a similar thing, with people often perceiving working without a break as a good sign of their character and fortitude.  Some might even regard taking a break as letting down their team.  It’s a kind of misguided hero syndrome.

Paid to go on holiday

Of course, it doesn’t have to be like that.  A growing number of companies are doing all that they can to ensure their staff take a break.  Some of the more adventurous ones are even going as far as to pay employees not just to go away, but to make sure they don’t even think about work whilst on their holiday.  Examples of this kind of practice have not surprisingly seen the taking of holiday allowances sky rocket.

How does your own employer regard holidays?  Do they want to encourage employees to take them or is there a culture of presenteeism in the office?

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