Annual leave and why you need it

by the Southern Cross Team
Monday , 17 October 2022 - 2-3 minute read
A woman smiles at the camera in a pool

Everyone needs a break from work now and then, yet many of us seem reluctant to take our full annual leave quota. So let’s check out some of the health benefits to try and convince you.

New Zealanders are never afraid of hard yakka. In fact as a nation we’re renowned for it. But now more than ever, maybe it’s time to down tools for a while and take a break. Why? Because not taking your annual leave also brings with it the risk of a whole host of mental and physical health challenges.

Let’s face it, annual leave isn’t just a bonus, it’s a necessity for our health and safety. Even if we don’t always realise it, many of us are under constant stress at work.

Some of it may be the obvious stuff, like meeting deadlines or general workload. But other factors such as the constant checking of emails, the inability to switch off when we’re working from home, or the daily commute when we’re not – they can all start to wear us down after a while. And yet oddly we’re all taking less annual leave now than ever before.

Not going away

The Southern Cross Work Workplace Report 2021 discovered that COVID-19 in particular had impacted rates of annual leave taken by employees during 2020. A majority 56% of employers reported that their people had taken less holiday time, while only 12.9% said they had taken more. So why exactly?

Many theories have been proposed, the obvious ones being a lack of travel options during the pandemic, uncertainty around job security or simply the desire not to use up leave while being stuck at home. Yet the truth is these trends had been noticeable even before COVID changed the world forever.

A generation of workaholics

In essence, we work way too much these days, something not helped by our constant connection through technology. Many of us struggle to ignore texts and emails whatever the time of day, or maybe feel that if we do then somehow we’re ‘letting the side down’. It’s all part and parcel of the modern world, and one that we really need to address for the sake of our health and wellness.

Whatever the reasons for our seeming unwillingness to switch off, the reasons to do so are beyond dispute. With this in mind, here are just some of the major benefits that taking a holiday can bring to your life:

1) Better physical health

Work is, well, hard work. It’s not something we would necessarily choose to do unless we needed to earn money. As such, if you keep the hammer down for too long, it can seriously affect your health. Taking regular holidays can help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat and abnormal cholesterol levels1, which in turn can lead to heart disease. In fact, one study showed that people who took annual holidays were less likely to die of any cause, full stop, including heart issues.2

2) Better mental health

Taking an extended break regularly is good for your brain as well as your body. In fact too much stress can alter your brain structure and lead to anxiety or depression. But when you take a holiday, even the relaxation of being in an environment you don’t normally associate with feeling stressed enables your mind to heal in ways simply not possible at work.

3) Increased motivation

As well as helping you switch off while you’re away, taking a holiday can recharge your batteries to make you more focused and productive when you do return to work. Think of it as a tune-up for your brain, something to help you feel re-invigorated and perform better. Plus of course travel can help open you up to new ideas and creative ways to solve challenges.

4) Better family relationships

Remove yourself from the same old same old family routines, and you actually begin to rediscover who you are, as well as the things you love about your family. In fact one study in Arizona found that women who took holidays more regularly were more satisfied with their marriages.3

5) Less risk of burnout

Burnout can affect people in many different negative ways. Changes in eating habits, for example, physical symptoms like headaches or an upset stomach, a dependence on drugs or alcohol to get you through, or simply a general trend for cynicism. But if you take a break, you’ll definitely release the stress and feel better for it. Perhaps even start sleeping better too.

6) A happiness boost

Finally, and it stands to reason, research shows that planning a holiday can help to boost your happiness levels even before you take your trip – up to 8 weeks before in some studies. It gives you something to look forward to, and the anticipation of a change is enough even before you set foot out of the door.

Yew, everyone needs a decent break to relax and unwind occasionally. So now that the world is opening up again after COVID, maybe it’s time to think about where you can take your next holiday. When you look at the benefits above, you certainly won’t regret it.





Other reference:

Southern Cross Workplace Wellness Report 2021

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