Why hoarding your holidays is a recipe for disaster

| December 16, 2020

One of the great joys in life is taking a break from work — getting away from it all, unwinding and recharging the batteries.

And Australians love nothing more than taking a holiday, right?

Wrong. It seems we don’t.

A new phenomenon known as holiday evasion is taking hold in many workplaces across the country.

Holiday evasion involves workers deferring their vacation and stockpiling leave entitlements for other times — often indefinitely.

While most Australian workplaces usually have one or two diehard workers who prefer to hoard their leave entitlements, more of us appear to be part of a growing movement that rejects our boss’s well-intentioned and often impassioned plea to exchange office cubicles for a cruise, staycation, or a spot of glamping.

But this new trend has bosses nervous because getting workers to clear their annual leave entitlements is become harder than hiking up a high hill with a festive season hangover.

Apart from the financial impact of accrued leave year-on-year, particularly if an employee is given a salary rise or moves on, the consequences of employees not taking regular holidays are many.

We need regular rest, which means that holiday evasion can induce stress, anxiety, fatigue and burnout.

This in turn can create morale problems and prompt workplace productivity to tank.

A worker often avoids taking holidays for fear of returning to a mountain of work. That fear is often accompanied by a commonly held (though flawed) view that nobody can do their job as well as them.

There is also the fear of being seen as replaceable, a theme that has emerged during a period of lingering job insecurity.

And let us not forget, too, that some bosses actually discourage workers from taking leave by not taking holidays themselves, being difficult and lacking flexibility when it comes to approving leave requests.

For some people the reason for vacation evasion can be far more severe and complex, not least because past holidays haven’t worked out as planned and have left them marinating in misery.

And what about those holiday avoiders who are engaged in illegal activities in the workplace, such as fraud or theft. While on the job, they are able to meticulously cover their tracks.

They fear, though, that their crimes will be detected should they go on leave.

Many Australians, it seems, are increasingly thinking a “no leave, no life” approach allows them to wear a badge of honour in the workplace.

But that badge comes at the expense of their overall health, wellbeing and even their relationships.

If you can take some of the leave you have been avoiding, your boss might just think all their Christmases have come at once. And you will feel much better for having taken a holiday.