And, what’s the impact of not taking a holiday on your mental health?

The pace of work today is faster and more competitive than ever.  This is having an impact on our mental health and wellbeing.  Find out why taking a holiday isn’t just your entitlement it’s an essential part of protecting your mental health. 

You owe it to yourself and your career to take a proper break away from the workplace.  Even if you love your job and enjoy what you do, it’s important to take some time out and get involved in other activities. 

More often than not, stress and pressure have become normal features of the modern workplace today.  That’s not good.  It’s also against the HSE guidelines.

So, why is it important to take a vacation from work?

You may be forgiven for thinking not taking time off work will be good for your career.  It will demonstrate commitment, loyalty and show just how important your career is to you.  However, not taking your holiday can be particularly damaging for your mental and physical health.

Negative impact of not taking a holiday on your mental health:

  • Less productive which could increase the risk of mistakes
  • Increased risk of common mental health issues (anxiety, panic attacks, depression, low mood, etc.)
  • May negatively affect emotional and social health (withdrawn, isolated, anti-social, etc.)
  • Feeling tired and lethargic can increase the risk of mistakes and be demotivating
  • Heighten risk of burn out which may increase absence

Contributors to feeling stressed at work:

  • Unrealistic workload or expectations
  • Conflicting deadline and priorities
  • Pressure from existing manager to work long hours
  • Remain “on-call” during evenings and weekends and holidays
  • Trying to keep on top of email traffic

Here are the benefits of taking a vacation from work

It’s likely you will be more productive if you take some time out of the workplace. Taking a holiday will help you gain some perspective. Having some time away from a busy workplace allows for some valuable reflection.

Reduces burnout and stress:

Work can be an addiction to some people and therefore, it’s difficult to walk away. It’s part of the psychological contract and their values to ensure everything runs smoothly 100% of the time. Without taking a proper break away from the workplace will increase the risk of negatively impacting your health and well-being.

Increases creativity:

When you’re under pressure and the workload is incredibly high it can be challenging to think clearly. Working in a stressful environment can make it easier to focus on the problem rather than thinking of the solutions. Staying longer and longer hours increases the risk of making mistakes or making quick decisions without thinking through the consequences.

Reduces ill-health and absenteeism:

Stress is the leading cause of absenteeism in the UK according to BITC (Business in the Community) and costs approximately £45bn each year. 1 in 4 of us at some point will experience a common mental health problem. Stress at work can impact home life, missing important dates (birthdays, school plays, sports days, anniversaries, etc.), affect partnerships, marriage, and have physical symptoms.

Improves working relationships:

It’s not only working relationships that will benefit by taking a holiday, it will most definitely improve relationships with your family and friends. Creating some quality time with the family is good for the soul and spirit. A chance to charge the batteries and get away from the day-to-day routine and chores.

The Cost of Mental Health in the U.K.

In 2010, the Centre for Mental Health calculated the economic and social cost of mental ill-health as £105 billion a year in England in 2009/10

“Mental health problems cost society nearly £119 billion already. That is likely to rise sharply this year in the wake of Covid-19. Now is the time to invest in the nation’s mental health. Local councils have a pivotal role in supporting good mental health in communities across the country. They urgently need funding to invest in their local areas and support groups that have been badly affected by the pandemic.”

The role of the manager

If you’re in a people management position you have a responsibility to be a positive role model.  Part of your responsibility is to protect your team’s mental health by reducing stress levels.

Consciously or unconsciously, you will set the tone and contribute either positively or negatively to the culture.

Whether you do this by design or by accident or whether you are conscious or unaware, you have a significant influence on your team.

Your behaviour and actions will impact the team more than your verbal or written instructions:

  • Regularly not taking lunch breaks
  • Eating at your desk
  • Working long hours in the office and at home
  • Sending emails after midnight
  • Starting early and staying late in the office
  • Not showing appreciation for work completed
  • If you don’t delegate it could imply no trust
  • Focusing on the mistakes and not celebrating the successes

It’s a common fact these days when you get to a management level you rarely switch off. The phone and laptop get packed in the suitcase along with the swimsuits and sunglasses.

We have so many methods of communicating these days it’s no wonder that we seem to be on constant call.

According to recent research by the charity Mind, it’s claimed that managers work on average an extra 46 days per year. This completely negates any holiday. Even when on holiday I certainly know lots of managers that regularly (even daily) log into their email accounts to keep on top of what’s going on.

The role of the organisation

Organizations have a responsibility to create a supportive and open environment where employees can talk about challenges and seek out help without fear.

Leaders and managers need regular training and education on the impact of excessive stress on employee’s wellbeing and how to reduce stress in the workplace. 

Culture and leadership have a massive influence too on the behaviours of individuals in the organisation.  Training and education provide the start to managing workloads, creating an environment of trust and empathy.  

Highlights of some of the recommendations from the Business in the Community research to improve well-being:

  • A commitment to reducing mental health stigma through education and cultural changes (From the boardroom to the shop floor)
  • Educate and training managers on how to spot the earning warning signs of stress and help them have sensitive conversations about health and wellbeing 
  • Ensure employees are provided with adequate training and tools and equipment to do their jobs 
  • Promote and communicate that well-being is a key driver to productivity and maximizing performance
  • Make employee well-being a core part of a managers job responsibilities, and provide managers with the time, resources and training to support their staff
  • Support managers to maintain their own well-being, in order for them to support others and set positive examples for their teams
  • Provide the right support to individuals at work, absent, and returning to work 

The role of the employee

Just as Health and Safety is the responsibility of everyone, so is looking after your own mental health and wellbeing.  It’s important to take 100% responsibility for your own health and wellbeing. 

The organization and your manager have a role to play in protecting the health and wellbeing of the team.  However, you know yourself better than anyone and know when you may be taking on too much.   

  • Learn to spot the earning warning signs in yourself and others in your team. 
  • Get educated on what resources and tools are available to reduce and manage stress in the workplace. 
  • Attend and access training and education sessions to learn how to cope when stress levels increase.  

Conducting regular risk assessments to measure the levels of stress in the workplace is an important part of the overall stress management strategy. 

If you are feeling particularly stressed or under pressure or feeling overwhelmed, here are some useful numbers;

  • Citizen’s Advice: 0800 144 8 444
  • Samaritans:  116 123
  • Relate: 0300 100 1234
  • Talk to Frank: 0300 123 6600