Top tips for reducing pre- and post-holiday stress

An inflatable unicorn floating in the sea

Is a stress-free holiday from work a unicorn?

We all need a holiday, but statistics show that many employees either postpone or don’t take holidays because of the stress associated with leaving work behind. ClearTalents explores why people don’t take annual leave and offers our top tips for ensuring that employees manage pre- and post-holiday stress.

Some 79% of employees say that they are either slightly or very stressed pre-vacation, according to a report by Wrike.  Elsewhere, data cited in HR Magazine found that 62% of UK workers hadn’t taken their full annual leave allowance in the previous year, while job site Glassdoor found that the average employee only takes around two-thirds of their yearly holiday allowance. 

Why aren’t employees taking their annual leave?

Stress is the main reason people don’t take a break from the office. Top holiday vacation fears include falling behind on work (34%) and believing no one else can do the work while they are gone (30%), according to the Wrike survey. 

However, it’s essential we take a holiday for our mental health. Here are some tips to help you and your employees ensure that they can switch off when they take a break. 

1. Take a break

You can’t pour from an empty cup. According to Forbes, employees who take regular vacations are better able to sleep, in a better mood after holidays, and more productive. Another survey found that those who take regular holidays are more likely to receive a promotion.

2. Set an Out-of-Office message

There’s also a fear of what you’re returning to in the office, with 84% of UK workers reporting feeling stressed when they return to work, says Wrike. Reduce stress by setting an Out of Office message that helps to manage expectations. Manage expectations: you might be returning to the office on a set date, but the chances are it’ll take a couple of days to catch up. So let people know that they may not receive an immediate response.

We recommend:

  • Be clear about the dates that you’re away
  • Let people know if there’s someone else that can handle queries in your absence
  • Add a buffer for replying to emails on your return

3. Set a flexible email policy

Of those who do take a holiday, many employees say they’re planning to work while on holiday. According to the same report, some 40% of men and 30% of women plan to work while away. 

Help people know what you expect of them. For example, employers can’t email employees outside of work hours in France. Your policy may state that there’s no expectation to check emails while on annual leave. However, some people may find it more stressful not knowing what’s going on, so an outright email ban could be counter-productive. In this case, you could encourage employees to check emails and to use the delay send feature within outlook – this enables you to set a date when the return email sends. It means employees have read the email but are not asking for more communication until they return. 

4. Have an open conversation

Start a conversation with your employees about holidays. Are they avoiding taking them because of stress? Ask them what you as an employer can do to help minimise the stress. For example, can you have a meeting before they go away and help prioritise workload? A FREE ClearTalents profile brokers conversations between employers and employees about reasonable adjustments, mental health and more. 

5. Encourage employees to take all their annual leave

Make taking a holiday a positive thing that you encourage. Planning will help reduce stress. You could set up a shared calendar where people can add their holidays to ensure there are enough people left in the office to temporarily take the strain.

For more workplace tips, follow ClearTalents. 

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