Vacation plans? Why employees aren’t taking their annual leave

People need a break – so why is no one booking a vacation?

Vacation plans? Why employees aren’t taking their annual leave

As we venture on in to 2021, employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of employee mental health – or, more specially, how the pandemic has impacted overall wellbeing. There’s no denying that the past few months have been unrelentingly difficult for many organizations and individuals – and yet employees seem reluctant to book in any of their vacation days.

HRD spoke to Kelly Higgins, associate vice president, health solutions, at Aon and host of the webinar - Time off with pay in post-pandemic world. Higgins revealed how the ongoing pandemic has affected their employee wellbeing and explained why HR needs to encourage their people to take some time off.

“Employee wellbeing was an important focus even before 2020, but the combination of a global pandemic, social unrest and a rapidly changing economy has elevated its importance to individuals, organizations and communities,” explained Higgins. “Balancing work and life, time off with pay, and employee mental health are intertwined. A holistic look at current programs, resources, and vendors is necessary to ensure that related offers are promoting strong employee wellbeing goals. Employers should also be focused on the concept of resilience, where the environment at work is one in which people can better adapt to adverse situations, manage stress, and retain motivation.”

This focus on holistic health plans is a trend we’re seeing emerge in 2021. Gone are the days of ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategies that look nice on paper but don’t translate into reality. The pandemic acted as something of a catalyst for the C-suite, prompting them to sit up and take note – employees won’t settle for subpar wellbeing initiatives.

“The pandemic influence led employers in all sectors to take greater and quicker actions to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their workforce; in particular, as it relates to employee mental health,” continued Higgins. “A recent global survey found that 42% of employees had experienced a decline in their mental health since the beginning of the pandemic. The decline may manifest uniquely to each employee, but may include difficultly concentrating at work, taking longer to complete work, or having trouble making decisions. (Qualtrics COVID and Mental Health Survey 2020). Following on this theme, Aon’s newly released 2021 Global Wellbeing report draws a direct link between employee wellbeing and business results finding the top three physical wellbeing risks impacting company performance to be stress, anxiety and burnout. While most organizations have a wellbeing initiative in place, only about half have a formal strategy. The current environment and the planning focus on a “new normal” gives employers the perfect opportunity to take a step back to look at employee wellbeing through a more strategic lens.”

One of the main challenges for employers going forward, and a key talking point in Aon’s upcoming webinar, is the issue of paid time off mid-pandemic. While it’s important for leaders to encourage their teams to take much-needed rest, workers are unsurprisingly hesitant to do so during lockdown.

“Over the past year and likely continuing through 2021, there may be a reluctance for some employees to take vacation time,” added Higgins. “For many, travel bans and social distancing rules have fostered a sense that, ‘there is nothing to do and nowhere to go’ so vacation time may be wasted or unnecessary. But we all need a break, especially in times of crisis. Taking time away from work, whether it is for a traditional vacation, for well needed personal days, for recovery from illness, or for reasons unique to the individual, contribute to an employee’s state of wellbeing. In the current environment, flexibility in time off policy is key as it recognizes the irregular times we are living through and the need for potentially unplanned time off to tend to physical and mental health needs or the physical and mental health needs of an employee’s family members.”

To hear more on how you can help your people balance work and rest, and how to improve overall wellbeing, watch Aon’s webinar here.

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