Holiday entitlement: How annual leave helps business

4 min read  |   25 April, 2019   By Alastair Turner

Three pairs of flip flops are standing up in the stand. The first pair of flip flops are bright red and has yellow heart-shaped sunglasses balancing on them. The second pair of flip flops are a bright light blue colour. The last pair of flip flops are bright yellow. Next to them is a colourful beach ball. In the background, there is the sea.

Alastair Turner, Managing Director at global communications agency, Aspectus explains why taking his holiday entitlement was the best thing for his business. First, let's start with why we're encouraging you to not only calculate, but take all of your annual leave. 

In 2017, British Airways asked 2,000 working Brits about their holiday entitlement and planning. The survey found that:

  • one-third of working Brits failed to use all of their annual leave (which equates to an average loss of four days per employee); and
  • 69% of Brits did not take a two-week holiday.

The stats speak for themselves. But why are employees, managers and entrepreneurs apprehensive about booking holiday?

Organisational psychologist Julia Knight believes that for some companies, an unwritten psychological contract is to blame for the guilt associated with taking their allocated annual leave.

This suggests that employers and employees avoid taking their full holiday entitlement

Knight continues:

“You can get into a loop of thinking everything will fall apart without you, so I equip people with ways of challenging their own thinking and ask: is that really true? If you’re overwhelmed, you can’t think properly about anything – and eventually, you keel over.”

Fortunately, when it comes to understanding, calculating and actually using your holiday entitlement Alastair agrees. Here's his story. 


Why we all need a holiday

Madonna clearly knows the value of a holiday, although her claim that a holiday could “turn the world around” may be asking too much. Interestingly, not everyone - especially those running businesses – always agree.

But holidays are hugely important, a break can certainly provide a business owner, CEO or employee with a different perspective, distance (both literally and figuratively) and a chance to breathe…

Confessions of an employer

Hi, I’m Alastair and I’m workaholic. There you go, I said it. I’m still addicted. Love it? I am obsessed. It occupies my mind most waking hours and I’m sure it always will.

But I’m equally sure I’m not the only one. What business owner or ambitious professional doesn’t recognise or live by the mantras ‘First in, last out’, ‘lead from the front’ or ‘email, call, WhatsApp any time’?

The problem with these mantras - as I have seen again and again from 10 years running Aspectus - is that avoiding time off and remaining at work through the holiday you're entitled to it's not sustainable in the long term. So in 2018, I actually took the holiday I was entitled to and began chanting a different tune.

There are of course caveats here, my job has changed as our company has grown and there is an argument that the growth was born out of an extended period of very hard work.

With JUST work in their lives how many people have got onboard a train they feel they can’t get off? And if they do get off will the train actually stay on the rails?


Taking annual leave gave me business insight

To extend the metaphor, the point about taking time out is that it gives you a chance to stop frantically shovelling coal in the engine and instead set the direction of travel and think about the journey.

Even now, following a decade on an all-hours contract, I find that I begin to get itchy feet after only a couple of days of rest bite. On the plus, this surplus energy but this forces me to do stuff. And if you are having a break this usually involves exercising both mind and body. When you have been shovelling the coal stack for a while that exercise is hugely refreshing.

Indeed, I discovered that while I was still thinking about work, the thoughts were welcome and I could see clearly how to solve the particular problem or hatch a plan for seizing a particular opportunity. I was much better placed to actually think. And properly think.

So looking back I ask myself “was that hard work always as productive as it might have been?” and “as my job changed from doing to decision-making, have I given myself the best possible chance to make the right decision?” I simply don’t know.


Calculate your holiday entitlement

But another common thing with owner managers or CEOs is that we don’t tend to look back. A coulda, woulda, shoulda attitude isn’t healthy. I spend most of my time in the present and quite a bit looking at the track ahead working out what’s happening further down the line. I now take that approach to time off and holidays always making sure I plan the next day off when I am on a day off. Why? I find it energising and motivating - I return wanting to go full steam ahead firing on all cylinders.

Or to return to the pop theme don’t be “under pressure” take a deep breath “release the pressure” - we all need a holiday.

We encourage our line managers and employees to take their holidays by allowing them to request dates through our holiday calendar on Breathe. Managers can then validate or decline requests by cross referencing and checking the days on one system and in-real time.

Stuck trying to calculate holiday? Breathe's free guide to holiday entitlements contains all SMEs need to know. Why not download for free today?


Author: Alastair Turner

Alastair Turner co-founded Aspectus, an award-winning, international communications agency specialising in financial services, energy and technology.

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