Finance Work Why there’s no shame in taking time off work
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Why there’s no shame in taking time off work

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Australians have a reputation for loving a good holiday and we take our annual leave very seriously. A recent survey by travel website Expedia confirms that fact, showing we are taking more annual leave than we have in the past seven years.

The average worker left just two annual leave days unused in 2015, down from five days the previous year.

Refreshingly, seven out of 10 (72 per cent) of us don’t feel guilty about taking annual leave and see it as “our right”, according to the survey results.

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With many of us returning to work in the past fortnight, there’s no doubt annual leave is top of mind, with 15 per cent of Australians booking their next trip within a month of coming back from leave.

What everyone else is doing

According to Expedia travel expert Kelly Cull, the way Australians take leave is changing, with more and more of us (50 per cent) choosing multiple short getaways rather than one long holiday (35 per cent).

“When you can go to Bali for four days and it still works out pretty cheaply you can see why people are opting for these kinds of small breaks,” Ms Cull said.

“I don’t think it matters whether or not you take a long break or a series of short breaks, the point is that you take a break and feel refreshed.”

Interestingly, the survey found 13 per cent of Gen Ys admitted they feared taking leave as they were worried it would be perceived negatively by their bosses.

Woman lying in sand dunes texting.
About one-third of Aussie holidayers check their work emails while they’re away. Photo: Getty

“This could be partly explained by the fact that Gen Y are at the start of their careers and are more worried about the impact of taking leave,” she said.

However, Ms Cull also noticed that more Australians are failing to properly disconnect while on holidays.

“Our survey found that 25 per cent of respondents checked their emails once or twice while on holidays, while one in 10 checked them every day,” she said.

Feeling free to leave

Trainer and owner of HR consultancy Chrysallis, Christine Litera, encourages employers to make it easy for staff to take time off.

“Most individuals stockpile leave due to fear,” she said.

“Fear that they may be fired by requesting it, they will be looked over for promotions or that, should there be an emergency, their company will not look after them.”

Ms Litera said she works hard to convince managers of the multiple rewards of more flexible and generous working conditions.

“Some businesses will ask how much sick leave, for example, they should grant and I tell them to give their staff unlimited sick leave,” she said.

“A happy workplace is a productive one and if you look after your staff they will respond in turn.”

Ah, I need a break from this work!
Some people are banking up their annual leave as a safety net. Photo: Getty

Not only does ample leave increase productivity, but it’s cheaper for businesses.

“It actually costs companies money to have too much leave on the books,” Ms Litera said.

“And it is so much better for workers’ health because once you take leave you get fresh perspective and realise there is more to life than work.”

The benefits of banking it

While taking annual leave is essential for our wellbeing, there are occasions when it might be wise to keep it up your sleeve for a little while.

“I have worked with employees in the mining sector where redundancies are commonplace and they are holding on to their long service leave and their annual leave just in case they will be out of work,” Ms Litera said.

“Some of them have up to 17 weeks’ leave.”

If you are thinking of changing jobs, quitting or starting your own business, then stockpiling as much leave as possible may be a good idea.

“That can actually be quite a big cheque and help you set yourself up again,” Ms Litera said.

The rest of us, according to Ms Cull, need very little convincing of the benefits of regular holidays.

“We have been doing this survey for seven years and we feel like the tide is turning,” she said.

“In the past we banked our leave much more, but now we feel that Australians are more willing than ever to take a holiday.

“They are not feeling as guilty as they did previously.”

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