A fifth of the nation’s office workers are being prevented from taking time off work because of staff shortages and reduced resources.
A survey by Just Eat for Business found that staff shortages came out as the biggest disrupter of annual leave requests, while a quarter (26%) of office workers can’t enjoy time off once they are granted it because they’re contacted by employers to help cover unplanned staff absences and excessive workloads.
Furthermore, the majority (60%) of employees feel their employer explicitly discourages them from taking time off work, while one in 10 do not feel able to ask for mental health leave.
With recruitment at its slowest pace for a year and a half, nearly half (44%) of employees told the Annual Leave Allowances survey that they felt burnt out at work. A third said they found trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance to be the most stressful aspect of their job.
Holidays and holiday pay
Just Eat for Business pointed out that this was despite many organisations advertising flexible working arrangements, implementing hybrid working and advertising generous leave entitlements.
For Will Foster, professor of leadership at Keele University, the current situation is unsustainable. He said: “It’s essential that if the ‘espoused’ values of the organisation include employee wellbeing and restorative breaks, then leaders need to allow that to happen and do more than pay lip service. Management must do the hard work of ensuring the structures, roles, responsibilities and staffing levels align so employees can take a ‘true rest’ when needed.”
For Anni Townend, leadership partner, organisations should at least look to encourage regular breaks during the working week even if extended annual leave isn’t manageable. She says: “Annual leave is an important part of a much bigger picture of looking after our life-work balance and of creating a positive work culture.
“Increasingly people are realising that there’s huge value in taking micro-breaks during the day as part of managing employee wellbeing, as well as longer macro-breaks like annual leave. The danger of not doing so is that we lose our ability to switch-off and to disconnect from work. This can impact our sleep patterns and our ability to concentrate, as well as cause extreme mood swings and a weakened immune system.”
One employee of a large publisher in London told Personnel Today: “The summer holidays have proved very difficult to take time off in this year. In June my department imposed a ban on any further August holidays – there simply is not enough staff to run things properly.”
Personnel Today reported last month that staff shortages were affecting businesses’ growth, with nearly three in 10 saying they have had to turn down work or are unable to bid for contracts because of resourcing issues.