What did you do for your holiday this summer? 
 
Something active and personally enriching? Lazing in the sunshine? Catching up on some books or meeting family and friends? 
 
And what did you notice when you returned to work? (Apart from the e-mail mountain of course!) Has your perspective changed at all? Have some of the big problems you were grappling with before you went away miraculously become a bit smaller and more manageable? Have your team managed to keep the organisation afloat during your absence? Are you a little more relaxed since you returned? 
Several years ago, I met someone who told me they had not taken a single day’s annual leave in over 4 years. And he was very proud of this too. Because, you see, he was completely indispensible to the organisation – no one could make a decision or solve a problem without his physical presence in the building. As a committed employee, he loved his job, he said, and was happiest when he was busy. 
 
I have reflected often about this individual. What would drive someone to work – effectively unpaid - for 5 weeks a year when they weren’t required to do so? How had he led a team for 4 years without developing their skills and capabilities so that at least someone could deputise in his absence? How mentally tired must he be after 4 years without a break? Would you want him to make decisions for your business? 
 
The Harvard Business Review published an article recently about the effect that failing to take holidays from work can have on your health, including increased risk of heart attacks, major depressive episodes among people with no history of mental health problems, and reduced cognitive function, specifically vocabulary and reasoning. 
 
There’s really only one reason I can think of for someone not to take their holiday entitlement. 
 
FEAR. 
 
They might tell you it’s fear of mistakes and incorrect decisions being made in their absence but this is just a cover story. 
 
Really and truly, they are afraid of letting go and not being in control of every detail, of not being indispensible after all, and worse still - of someone else doing their job better than they do it. 
 
Checking holiday records should be part of your risk management routine. Encouraging – and where necessary insisting – that people take their annual leave entitlements is good for your business, good for your employees, and good for your reputation as the kind of employer that others might want to work for. Requiring every manager and team leader to train at least two deputies to cover in their absence means that your business has a continuity plan, should any one fall ill, leave or take a holiday. 
 
Regular holidays from work are a great antidote to work-related stress, they provide development opportunities for your team, and – perhaps as important as anything – they give your team a break from you! 
 
If you haven’t had any time off this summer, there’s still time for a late break. And there are some great deals now that school has restarted – what are you waiting for? 
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