Businesses have a problem with employees not taking holidays.


Research by Glassdoor found that 40% of survey respondents took at most half of their annual leave for the previous year, with the average employee taking just 62% of their time-off.


Even those that took their full allowance didn’t find the time to fully unwind, with 15% continuing to work on their days off to avoid getting behind.


Due to the current pandemic, the number of workers that don’t take their full holiday allowance is likely to be much higher.


So what can employers do to encourage their workers to take a break?


Reasons employees might not take time off


There are several reasons why your employees might avoid taking annual leave. They can include:


Having too much work


Employees might avoid taking a break if they are worried about their work piling up.


Long notice periods


Some workplaces require employees to submit absence requests far in advance so that the following month’s work isn’t disrupted, however employees don’t always know how when they will need time off that far in advance.




Presenteeism often refers to staff arriving at work when they are unwell, usually to impress their managers. This issue also impacts workers willingness to take a time off.


This can also occur if there is a perception that taking time off is a bad thing.


Employee capacity


Similar to avoiding booking annual leave due to worries about personal workload, employees at smaller companies may avoid taking time off as it could have a genuine impact on the running of the business.


Schedule conflicts


At busy times of the year, employees may feel that they’re not able to take time off.


This can relate to busy months where employees feel they need to be available, but also popular times for annual leave, such as in the summer or Christmas, when other members of the team want time off too.

Whether it’s feeling overworked or wanting to show commitment, it’s important to get to the root of why your employees feel unable to take time off.


Why you should encourage employees to take time off


It can seem good for business to have your staff avoid taking annual leave, however, this can lead to burnout.


Burnout is a feeling of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion, caused by prolonged workplace stress. The risk of burnout becomes increasingly more likely if your employees feel unable to take time off.


Ensuring workers take time to relax and recharge not only helps to avoid burnout but can also improve productivity, job satisfaction and employee engagement.


Research from The Happiness Advantage author, Shawn Achor, found that when employees have a positive state of mind, productivity can improve by 31%, and creativity and revenue can triple.


How to encourage your employees to take time off


So what can employers do to encourage their staff to take a break? Depending on which issues are affecting your staff, there are different approaches to ensuring your whole team get the rest they deserve.


Lead by example


It’s important to speak to your team and encourage them to take time off, but one of the best ways to get the message across is to lead by example.


If they see senior members of staff working at all hours and not taking a break, it can cement the idea that this is the way to act to get ahead.


Show your team that you’re serious about work/life balance by taking all your annual leave, and they won’t be as likely to pass on taking time off.


Redefine time-off


Due the pandemic, many people have been forced to cancel their holiday plans. And many workers haven’t booked alternative time off because they are unable to go anywhere.


During this time, you should try to rid your team of the idea that annual leave is to be used for going on holiday. Suggest they take time off to focus on themselves, or for family time instead.


There are still many things to do across the country, compile a list of pandemic-safe activities to help your workers break up the monotony and encourage them to take a break.


Set a deadline for annual leave


One reason that workers may avoid taking days off is in case they need them later.

To combat this, you can set a deadline for when employees should have used or booked a certain percentage of their leave for the year. For example, suggesting that workers should have used at least 50% allowance halfway through the leave year.


There shouldn’t be any penalties for those that don’t achieve this but making your team aware of this request will encourage people to think about when they might want to use their leave.



Make it easy to request annual leave


The process of booking a holiday can also be a reason that your staff aren’t doing so.


For many businesses, submitting an absence request involves filling out forms that are stored in an obscure folder or only available by asking someone else.


Managing the annual leave of a workforce is complicated and requires discipline and structure but too many roadblocks will prevent employees from taking time off.


Implement easy-to-use HR software that allows employees to make requests with ease. Many applications have been created with this purpose and make it so easy that employees can book time-off in seconds.


Using specialist software can also help to avoid any clashes and prevent people losing track of how much annual leave has been taken.