Employers will now have to work even harder to ensure employees working from home really do take a break.
The UK government has recently advised businesses that their staff should “work from home if they can”. However, it is interesting to note that only a few weeks ago, only half of staff that could have been in offices (based on previous government guidance) actually were. Research by consultancy Eden McCallum finds 63% of staff say COVID-19 induced remote working is having a positive impact on their work-life balance, with a third wanting more of it.
For many, it seems ideal, but could mass working from home be in danger of creating permanent changes to people’s attitudes to work and leisure – chief of which is how it impacts people’s notion of holiday? There’s growing worry that workers dividing their hours more around their home lives (good in one regard), could be lulled into thinking they’re now permanently more relaxed and less likely to feel they need their usual restorative (and official) holiday entitlement. Indeed, as ONS data reveals, post-lock-down, a third of workers now claim to be working fewer hours than before – with staff seemingly transitioning to more flexible working. Even worse though, is the plight facing the other third ONS finds are over-working – those not adequately differentiating home-life and work-life. For these, failure to take holiday could be far more concerning.
Whichever group staff are in, it’s clear they could now find themselves not taking holiday. But the impact of having no time off is the same: depletion of their batteries, which if prolonged, could lead to undiagnosed stress and other physical and mental health conditions.
It’s a situation employers need to be aware of. UK staff, perhaps surprisingly, were already poor holiday takers. In 2018 Glassdoor found the average employee took just 62% of their annual leave. But now that working patterns are more fluid, it’s essential employers now have a firmer grip of knowing who is and who isn’t taking the annual leave they need, and who could – as a result – be prone to health impacts, including burnout (now considered a disease by the World Health Organisation).
Because employers can’t actually insist staff to take their holiday 20 days’ holiday entitlement (this is the legal minimum for a full time worker), the next best thing is for responsible employers to ensure they have IT in place that monitors leave, supported by a culture that encourages staff to use-it-or-lose it (or encourage any holiday carried over to be used within a shorter period of time).
So vital is this, we believe proactive employee holiday management is an important precursor to good employee health and wellbeing – especially as holiday has actually become a more complicated kettle of fish. Most staff can now ‘sell’ up to five days’ worth of holiday a year (through employee benefit portals that give staff cash for days sold) – adding an extra layer to seeing if staff need to be putting their rest and relaxation time first. Thanks also to furlough, the process of establishing legitimate holiday entitlement is another complexity to content with. Currently holiday still accrues normally to those ‘off’ on furlough – but employers can still request staff use their holiday entitlement during furlough if they are given twice the amount of notice as the leave they want them to take. Never before has technology been needed by employers to officiate, record, and encourage staff to take precious time off.
Without systems that make booking time off easy, but also allows managers to assess who might not be taking breaks (and cross-reference to whether goals are being missed or absence is rising), the likelihood is that holiday will continue to be something staff feel embarrassed about, or fearful of taking if they feel it will lead to yet more pressure when they return. Holiday is a basic right for all staff. Rest and recuperation is what’s needed more than ever in uncertain and anxiety-driven times. The summer holidays might just have ended, but holiday needs to get back on the front foot again – for the sake of staff happiness and business performance.
Please get in touch with us today to book in a demo so we can show you how we could help not only support the leave management process in your business, but also provide many other benefits for your remote workers. We also offer a full access, free, 14-day trial.