When’s the last time you took a week off?

Have you been delaying it, due to the lockdown and social distancing?

What’s the point, right? You can’t go abroad easily, can’t really get out and do the things you’d want to do?

I’ve spoken to a few people who feel like this, and it got me thinking about taking annual leave and what a “good” reason to do so would look like.

Annual leave does not mean a holiday

I recently ran a poll on LinkedIn where 30% of respondents said they had taken annual leave during lockdown solely to relax at home and not think about work. This was great to see!

As a company that puts great emphasis on positive mental health and stress prevention and management, this is really encouraging.

Many people think they need a “good reason” to book time off, like they should have a holiday booked or plans made. But it’s important to remember that time off from work is worthwhile, even if you don’t have any specific plans or holidays in mind.

Sometimes a good enough reason is that you just want to relax on the sofa with a tub of ice cream and binge your favourite Netflix programme. Switching off from work and getting your mind focussed on other things (or simply “unfocussing” altogether) is hugely beneficial to both your health and happiness, but also indirectly makes you more productive and happier at work, too.

I am a big advocate for taking a day off here and there – sometimes a 2-day weekend just isn’t enough to recoup after a busy period at work. You don’t need a “good reason” beyond it being something you feel you want or need to do.

Time is precious

The important thing is that you do take your annual leave.

Studies have shown people who work at companies who offer unlimited holidays end up taking less holiday overall. This is likely due to these workplaces being so intense that employees feel that it’s impossible to take time off and get all of their work done.

When something is unlimited, it loses all value. It’s no longer precious. And with that comes a complete lack of urgency to book annual leave, especially the kind of annual leave that’s not contingent on other things like holiday plans. It means your day off just gets pushed back again and again.

But your time is precious. You shouldn’t spend your life at work. I really dislike the term “work/life balance” but the concept is sound – you need a balance between all things in life including work, family, personal time, health, hobbies, friends, and so on. Pouring all of your energy into any one of these areas is a recipe for burnout and, then, feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

When you can’t is when you should

When is the best time to take annual leave in order to relax? It’s probably when you feel like you can’t.

When you’re at your busiest, most stressed and feel that you couldn’t possibly step away from the keyboard. That’s probably when you would benefit the most from a time out, cool down and to get some perspective.

Will things really explode or fall down if you have 1 day off? Can you make sure other people have what they need to get their parts done without you? Is there anyone else who can pick up the slack? Or, if a whole day is too much, could you take a half day one Friday and enjoy a longer weekend?

From my experience when you feel like you don’t have any time for a break is precisely when you need one the most.

So remember to keep an eye on yourself, take your annual leave when you need it and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for doing so.