Does Taking Annual Leave Cure Burnout?

Does Taking Annual Leave Cure Burnout?


  • Date: Tuesday 20th August 2019
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Earlier this year burnout was recognised as a medical condition by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and from 2020 it will officially be identified in the International Classification of Diseases. While this has been classified as a growing issue among the workplace, employers may simply believe that increasing holiday allowances or urging staff to take time off can cure fatigue and corporate burnout. But this simply isn’t the case.

A number of factors all come into play when it comes to addressing employees’ wellbeing. From an organisation’s culture and workload to company perks and a lack of support and communication, all of which require specific attention from an HR department to ensure staff members are not on the verge of feeling burnt out.

Burnout is a specific workplace issue described as "a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” and in a Quartz article this year, writer Sarah Todd referred to a 2018 study by the American Psychological Association, which found that two-thirds of 1,500 US workers believed that the mental benefits of a holiday disappeared within a few days.

Leaving your job behind for a week or two can cause stress for a number of reasons; concerns that employees will miss emails and that work will pile up in their absence are just a few factors. This rings true with statistics from The Institute of Leadership & Management. In 2015, a survey of over 1,000 UK workers and managers found that almost one in five workers return from a holiday feeling more stressed than when they left. Meanwhile, shockingly it also found that 61% also work during their time off. It’s clear that encouraging staff members to take a well-earned break isn’t always the solution to combat burnout.

Speaking to Quartz, Liane Davey, Author of The Good Fight, added: “Unfortunately, the duration of most vacations, one or maybe two weeks at best, is insufficient time to decompress and counter the effects of real burnout.

“As most people realise, taking vacation can be punishing, with a frenetic week of lead up as you try to tie up loose ends and another week of double duty while you catch up on the work you missed while still processing the incoming barrage.”

Instead of simply offering annual leave to staff members, HR should consider introducing breaks within the working day to help break up tasks and provide some respite for employees if they are feeling physically burnt out.

In addition, having clear communication between staff members and line managers will provide HR with an avenue to find out what exactly employees want. Speaking to HR Grapevine, Ryan Tahmassebi, Director of People Science at Hive HR, concurred that confidential surveys can allow employees to share if they seek better values and autonomy or an improved culture, which could dramatically improve wellbeing or feelings of burnout. 

“They give employees a voice on everything from company practices and reputation, to leadership and management — and give HR teams the tangible workforce insights they need to inform change action plans that clearly prioritise areas for improvement,” he concluded.

Source: HR Grapevine


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