Could compelling staff to take annual leave make them more productive?


Britons get 28 days’ paid holiday a year but could compelling staff to take this time off make them more productive?

Opinion_Debate Ignaty_April15YES The notion that working more man-hours generates more productivity should seem obvious, logical even. Graft ² = productivity∞, surely? However, look at the OECD stats* and it’s a different story. Greece is one of the hardest-working EU countries, with Greeks toiling more than 2,000 hours a year. But Germany averages just 1,400 man-hours yet generates 70 per cent more productivity. With the German average of 40 days’ annual holiday, these figures echo the views of psychologists such as Jessica de Bloom, who argues that people should take more time off as holidays “refill our batteries” and help us perform at higher levels.

In the US, where workers take an average of 12 days a year, companies such as Colorado software firm FullContact have taken to offering employees $7,500 (£5,000) stipends to take all their allocated leave. In the UK, we don’t need to go to such extremes. But I’ve noticed that holiday time sparks new ideas in my employees, which Russia Local benefits from. In particular, taking holidays abroad has been useful for my staff, giving them an opportunity to see how other cultures operate in the exporting sphere. I view it as free research.

There’s only one type of business that benefits from unhappy, holiday-starved consumers and they’re pharmaceutical firms. Every company should do their best to help employees be happy and healthy. It’s not just the staff that benefits, but the company too.

Ignaty Dyakov is managing director of Russia Local, which helps British businesses expand into Russia
Ignaty Dyakov is a member of IoD Central London

Opinion_Debate Adam_April15NO
Making holidays mandatory is going too far. We live in a free democratic society and there are good reasons why employees might elect not to take their full allowance. Indeed many may feel the 28-day entitlement is too high for their needs. Don’t assume people who don’t take their full entitlement are workaholics. They may not work excessive hours, plus I know many people who get fed up with a holiday after a week or so, so it’d be madness to subject them to more if they are happier back at work.

The argument that more holiday time makes staff more productive is misleading too. Around a quarter of Americans don’t have any vacation time at all. Yet recent ONS stats show the US tops the G7’s productivity table – 31 percentage points above the UK. Incentivising someone to take a holiday is like providing someone with a reason to agree to a pay rise. This doesn’t make you a bad employer. You can show you care about your staff by being flexible, such as allowing an employee to benefit from a short-notice holiday and leave tomorrow.

I have managed teams of all sizes and – although I never actively encourage people to take annual leave – I try to accommodate requirements, even when they fall outside of company policy (maximum two weeks off at a time, for example). They usually return the favour big time. By treating staff as individuals, rather than cogs in a corporate machine, we can foster greater loyalty to our companies.

Adam Sidbury is director of employee recognition specialist Digital Fibre
Adam Sidbury is a member of IoD Hertfordshire
*OECD, 2012


About author

Christian Koch

Christian Koch

Alongside his work for Director, Christian has written features for the Evening Standard, The Guardian, Sunday Times Style, The Independent, Q, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, ShortList and Glamour in an eclectic career which has seen him interview everybody from Mariah Carey to Michael Douglas through to Richard Branson with newspaper assignments including reporting on the Japanese tsunami and living with an Italian cult.

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