Are You Afraid to Take Time Off Work?


The recent round of short weeks we’ve had may not have felt like much of a break, but for a growing number of full-time workers, two or three days out of the office is more than enough time for a holiday. According to research, when it comes to taking annual leave, Australian workers are taking less and less time off work each year.

A study of 11,144 respondents revealed that workers are opting for a long weekend instead of taking several weeks off, with one in six Aussies failing to take a single day of leave in 2020. Now no doubt COVID-19 has had a lot to do with that. With travel restrictions and lockdowns, many have seen little point in taking time off. And with a significant proportion working from home, why take time to be at home when you’re there already (even if you are working!). 

Before COVID-19, a survey of working Australians looked at annual leave habits and motivations and exposed us as a nation of workaholics. According to their annual report of 11,144 respondents, titled ‘Vacation Deprivation’, the average Aussie only took 14 of their 20 days of annual leave each year, with six days failed to be used. It signifies a downward trend over the past 10 years — in 2009 Aussies only left 3.5 days unused. And this was before COVID-19!

There are various factors as to why people are not taking leave. Chief among them is the fear effect. We’re often scared to take too much time off because of fears of being expendable or easily replaced. Since jobs have been hard to replace for many people over the last few years, many people want to be proactive in keeping the job they have by any means necessary. The severe cutbacks in jobs due to COVID-19 has made people want to appear more committed. This leads to defensive overworking with long hours and skipped vacations. This is even more the case with the workforce employed from home. We’re no slackers, and in fact, working from home invariable leads us to work longer hours, overcompensating for not being under the watchful eyes of our managers. However, doing this too long and will ensure burnout. Learn to be comfortable in your value to the company and know that you are doing your job adequately. 

Don’t be afraid to take time off work

Sure, there hasn’t been too much opportunity to take a week in Fiji or up to the Daintree for a while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a couple of long weekends and head to the beach or the hinterland with your loved ones. Your job will still be there. And more importantly, the change of pace and scenery will do wonders for your productivity when you return to your desk.

Other reasons you shouldn’t be afraid to take time off work are: 

The Health Benefits

Several studies have shown that taking time away from the job can have physical and psychological health benefits. People who take time off have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals. If you still need a little convincing, here is a list of some of the additional benefits of taking time away from work…

Improved Mental Health

Neuroscientists have found that we’re less effective when exposed to chronic amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which can be a major contributing factor to anxiety and depression. It should come as no surprise to learn that feelings of calm arise from time away from work and relieves stress, which allows the body and mind to heal in ways that it just wouldn’t if it were still under pressure.

Increased Mental Power

Upon returning from time off work, employees are often more focused and productive. Studies have found that chronic stress can actually modulate a part of the brain that inhibits goal-directed activity and can cause problems with memory. Time off can tune up a well-functioning brain.

Need more convincing that being a martyr to the company will get you further? In our next blog, we’ll go deeper into why you should never be afraid to take time off work. 

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