How often do you find yourself daydreaming of lying beneath a palm tree with your feet in soft sand and the sound of the ocean in the background? Or hiking up a mountain and taking in the views? Then, snapping back into the present, it’s 3pm and you’re not on the beach or a mountain; you’re at work. While we can’t be in paradise all the time, making a real life visit to paradise is actually the beneficial and healthy thing for you to do. Here’s why cashing in that accrued annual leave helps at work.
Each year, Australian businesses foot a $20 billion bill caused by overworked staff. Burnout is considered by Work Safe Australia as a serious mental disorder that leaves employees stressed and exhausted. This impacts working life as well as home life and relationships.
Taking a holiday is not only a well-deserved luxury, it’s essential to lowering stress levels, maintaining productivity and work-efficiency. Marion Miller is a Mindfulness Teacher and Coach for the workplace at Melbourne Coach and sees burnout happening every day, and becoming more prevalent today than ever before.
“We have such a fast pace of life these days,” Miller states. “People today are living in a more complex world where workplaces expect more. There’s higher demand at work and there are more distractions. People are struggling to stay focused and be attentive to tasks and this causes stress, anxiety and, for some, serious health problems.”
With longer hours and greater expectations, it’s no wonder we stress out so quickly. Miller meets clients daily who are heavily focusing on work as they strive towards future goals, but for many hard workers, this is undermining their wellbeing. People are becoming stressed more easily, which not only impacts our work, but also our mental and physical health. Being overworked has a big impact on our immune system, resulting in people taking their sick leave instead, which is costing billions to the economy.
The impact of burnout affects people long after they face a stressful situation. The psychological and physical consequences of burnout include fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression and can lead to greater issues down the road.
“Exposure to chronic stress has a big impact,” says Miller. “People get stuck in a cycle like a rat on a wheel and eventually they get exhausted.”
We’re lucky in Australia to have the right to four weeks of annual leave. But with so much demand at work, many of us feel pressured to not take our leave at all. Meeting deadlines and keeping up-to-date on tasks makes taking a holiday seem completely infeasible. But according to Miller, breaks are necessary for our health and wellbeing.
“Stepping away from your work and focusing on a different part of your life is really healthy to bring meaning to your life.”
“Stepping away from your work and focusing on a different part of your life is really healthy to bring meaning to your life,” says Miller. “Many people just work for the money and sometimes in unfulfilling jobs in an unhealthy cycle.”
Taking a holiday from work is better for us in the long run, even if we feel that taking a break may leave us behind in our work. By taking annual leave, we are able to replenish our resources after working too much, and when we return to work, we’re able to work more efficiently. A well-rested mind will give us the energy to maintain a high performance state and improve our quality of work. Plus, going on a holiday feels great, so don’t forget about that too.
“Take a break, get some rest, allow yourself to sleep and eat well. Go travelling, do things that make you feel good. Get outdoors in nature and spend time with people you love. This sort of stuff fills up your cup and helps to bring balance to your life and a better perspective,” states Miller.
But what if it’s not the right time to take our annual leave at work?
“Anytime throughout your working life, use your weekends to take breaks, get out to the country, do something active that involves exercise and being present, like a nature walk or beach walk.” We can even do this each day at work, Miller says.
“When you’re at work, take little ‘mindful breaks’ and check in— where is your mind right now? How is your body feeling? Do you need more sleep? Listen to what’s going on inside yourself.”
So whatever your daydream paradise, make it a reality and don’t be afraid to tell your manager that you need a break. Sometimes, a holiday is exactly what the doctor prescribed.