For everyone’s sake, take some time off | OPINION

Did you know that Australians on average have five days of unused annual leave owing to them at the end of each year?

Interestingly, research indicates that in comparison to other OECD countries, on average, Australians work longer hours as well.

Perhaps our international reputation as lazy and laid-back is actually a myth – but is this something to be proud of?

Not bludging is one thing, but the impact of working long hours and not taking holidays takes its toll.

I should know – I just took my first holiday in 12 years.

The glorification of “busy” has allowed many of us to continue battling on under that guise of being so busy we couldn’t possibly take time off while providing us with a (false) sense of importance that fuels our midnight oil as we toil away into the wee hours of the morning.

But the reality is that we are burning the candle at both ends and, ultimately, we will pay the price for this.

Research has shown us that not being able to step away from work whether for a day of rest or a two-week holiday can lead to increased stress levels, poor social lives, lowered work productivity (which kinda defeats the purpose, no?!), moodiness … and at the scary end of the scale increased risk of heart disease and premature death!

So why do we do it? Why do we feel the need to work ourselves to the bone and not take the leave that we are entitled to?

For many of us, we believe that we are unable to take leave due to work commitments – there’s always clients who need us, deadlines to meet, and teams who need our leadership.

Imposter syndrome can also rear its ugly head again and we begin to doubt that we are actually good at our job and worry that if someone else steps in to fill our shoes in our absence, we’ll either be found out to be a fraud or they’ll do it better and call our own capabilities into question.

For other people, we don’t know who we are without our jobs and we feel at a loose end without it to make us feel needed, important and validated.

In a workforce and where restructuring and redundancies are becoming more common, there is a fear that our job won’t be there when we get back and that fear can be enough to stop us from taking our leave – would we enjoy a holiday anyway if we were constantly worrying about this?

Then there are those of us who have to prepare all the work for our replacement before we leave, or people who take their computers with them to stay on top of emails so they don’t return to an avalanche of work. 

At the end of the day, most of us don’t take our leave entitlements because we believe we are supporting the company more by not doing so. In reality, we aren’t doing anybody any favours by staying at work 12 months of the year.

It’s believed that our work productivity can increase by 8 per cent just by taking a single day off – imagine what can happen if we took a whole week off.

Bringing rejuvenated attitudes and positive energy back into the work place after a break can breathe a breath of fresh air into the office and positively impact everyone: stress levels reduce, performance improves, and our general sense of happiness grows.

Taking leave has a positive impact on the company and on us, so what’s not to love?

Although, if you are like me and you took your kids with you, you and your spouse might need a holiday to recover from the holiday when you get back.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer, counsellor & coach at Impressability.