Unlock career success - the benefits of scheduling annual leave & how it can lead to career growth

blog Jan 06, 2023
Monthly calendar with days off marked by a red thumbnails.

Career wellbeing and scheduling your annual leave 

Paid days off from work sound like a dream right? Who wouldn’t want 20 plus days where you can skip your early morning commute, switch off from the laptop, and spend your time travelling, going to events, or relaxing. Not alone time off from paid work good for you it is vital to your unlocking career success...

Take it or leave it – why are people not taking their full annual leave entitlements? 

For most people, taking this time off isn’t a straightforward as it seems. In fact, planning and taking time off from work is challenging in today's hectic society, where hustle culture is highly prized. Research from the Central Statistics Office found that 1 in 5 of the Irish working population do not take their full annual leave entitlements. That’s 20% of us who are choosing to spend a day in work rather than taking the time to rest, relax and recuperate!  

Regularly taking annual leave has both personal and professional advantages, such as increased creativity, better mental health, and increased productivity. A study by the Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans showed that upon taking annual leave, employee productivity increased by up to 40%.  

You also get the chance to participate in new activities, have some downtime, and think about the direction you want your career to go during this time off. You'll get the perspective you need to move forward and maximize your career by taking annual leave. 

Why is annual leave so beneficial? 

Career related benefits of taking annual leave

That 40% increase of productivity doesn’t just come from nowhere, it is the free time to recharge and relax away from your workspace that often gives people the space to be more creative and productive as they return refreshed to the workplace. We know our brains are less functional when we are fatigued or overworked, so it’s no surprise the benefits that recharging can have for our work-lives.  

Personal benefits of taking annual leave

Within our personal spheres, paid time off enables us to do all the things that often most of us work to be able to afford. Remember we work to live, we do not live to work.  

What’s the point of working so hard all year round and not getting the chance to explore new places, fly to that country you’ve dreamed of, go for the dinners, day trips, and nights out. Annual leave gives you that time away to enjoy life. Not to mention, taking annual leave gives you the opportunity to spend time with people who make you smile – one of your physical non-negotiables.  

And on that note – find out how to hack your annual leave to get 48 days off in 2023 by using only 20 days... 

While here in Ireland most of us are only entitled to 20 days of annual leave a year, there is actually a smarter way to book your days off in order to maximise your down time. For example, booking Fridays off before a bank holiday and the Tuesday after will give you a lovely 5 day break, (provided you don’t work weekends that is!). Another example is if you book from Friday the 27th of May to the 5th of June off you will get 10 days off in a row by simply using only 5 days of annual leave. 

Physical benefits  

Taking your annual leave can reduce things such as high blood pressure, heart problems that all begin with stress. In fact, it reduces the number of employees taking sick leave by 28%. Burnout is caused by overwork with little rest time and can lead to chronic fatigue, insomnia, and symptoms like headaches and stomach-aches. Not only will taking time off work help manage your stress it will in turn help prevent the dangerous health scares associated with burnout.  

Why are people not taking annual leave?  

The truth is, many of us find it impossible to switch off and leave work behind. Especially in today's working world where most of our work is based online, making us feel like we are never really disconnected from our office duties.  

The other part of the story is that for working parents annual leave is the only way to manage child care during school holidays. This sees parents taking their annual leave in chunks to cover childcare during the summer months and other breaks from school. Many (including myself in a previous life) use annual leave alongside parental leave to make up the days needed to cover leave. 

Big companies like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Netflix in recent years have implemented Unlimited Paid Time Off (UPTO) which enables workers to request days off whenever they want throughout the year, once it does not impact their work or the organisations. A 2018 study found that when companies implemented zero restrictions on the number of paid leave days, employees took less day's annual leave than the standard number of days that everyone is entitled to.  

But why? We are often driven by social pressures and particularly by the ideas our peers have of us as people and in the workplace as workers. When given that freedom to take off as many days as you like it can often become a competition between employees to see who is more committed, who is willing to sacrifice their time off. 

London recruitment firm Unknown adopted a different structure, wanting to give employees more paid time off without the social pressures of giving them unlimited choice. So instead, they boosted the amount of annual leave days to 32 for all employees, which successfully increased the number of employees taking their full-time off entitlements, a win for both the company and its employees.  

So, is this the way forward for our annual leave in Ireland?  

However, the grass is not always greener, this research shows us that we can’t expect these ideals to work 100% when the fundamental structural and cultural issues in the workplace are not first solved.  

As individuals activating your permission mindset and allowing yourself the time to take off is a positive first step. Book your days off as soon as you can, and promise to stick to them. Leave some days (maybe 3 or 4) to play with if something unexpected comes up but other than that schedule your days at the start of the year.  

At organisational level, and if you are leader within an organisation encourage your team members to take their leave and to use their days off in a way that works for them. Put it on a meeting agenda and remind your team people why it is so important to take time off. And on that note, make sure that you are walking the walk...plan your time off and take it. That means no emails, no calls, no texts...because if you don’t lead by example, it is extremely challenging (if not impossible) for others to follow.  

Remember, you work to live rather than live to work. 

Make 2023 the year that you plan your work and career around your life...



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