When to Hit the Escape Button and Take a Break

Posted May 31, 2020

Annual leave when you work from home and aren’t going anywhere

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How much of your annual leave is planned around holidays, celebrations and adventure days? All otherwise known as, out of the house socialising with lots of other people days. Not a common occurrence in the middle of a global pandemic.

I used to extend a bank holiday weekend fairly often and I’m not alone; according to the data management firm WhosOff, the Friday prior to the August Bank Holiday weekend is the single most popular day to take as annual leave in the UK. When I did this, in my nine-to-five office life, it was to take advantage of a natural break from the office environment. A prospect which is much harder to achieve when your office is within the four walls of your home.

What Self-Employment taught us

Annual leave for adventure or misadventure has a clear purpose. A day trip to the beach here, a hangover there, an extended family members celebration. When I left work to support our family at home, we relied on a single income and everything was suddenly different.

My husband is self-employed; a no-work day means no income. The purpose of going to work to earn money simply outweighed the benefit of taking a break from the office. At first, we’d wait for the natural breaks between work contracts or national Bank Holidays (thank you May). This worked for a few weeks, but we began to notice a change in the mood of the house. We were both more easily overwhelmed when things didn’t go to plan and less patient with daily life. Everyone was just tired.

Our approach to annual leave as a family reliant on a single self-employed income valued money over time and wellbeing. It wasn’t feasible to sustain this long term and we had to mentally remove the monetary value from a working day to book time off and take a break.

Those who are self-employed won’t be financially compensated if they take a day off. But it’s not just self-employed workers that are skipping annual leave days. The average UK employee only uses 77% of their annual leave allowance per year.

This makes an average of six and a half days where your employer would have paid you not to turn up to the office, but you did anyway.

If the incentive isn’t there when you can physically take a break from the office, book a holiday and leave the house, how can we be persuaded to take our allotted annual leave working from home every day?

Valuable signs that it’s time to hit that escape button

Work-life is spilling over

When you are having a hard time signing out of your work environment and switching to home life, it can feel like there’s never any break. You might find yourself working late into the evening or checking work emails at the kitchen sink for multiple days at a time. When your weekdays all look the same and your weekend is playing catch up for all the personal and household things you can’t get to in the week, schedule a day off. Whether you spend the time with yourself and your family or use it to catch up on your mental to-do list, this is an opportunity to refresh your week.

What commute time?

Everyone’s commute has one thing in common; it’s a pocket of time at the start and end of the workday, separating your work and home life. It’s a pocket of time that disappears altogether when you work from home. You might be missing a few commute-related warning signs too.

If you couldn’t comfortably do your normal commute, that’s a good sign you should take the day off. I’m talking about when you’re tired enough to sleep through your alarm. If you’re ill, you need a sick day and not a holiday and that’s a whole different kind of break from work!

If you can’t remember the last time you sat down to eat a main meal with your family, even though you don’t have to accommodate a commute to or from work, it might be time to schedule a day or two of annual leave.

It’s actually easier to arrange annual leave

With no commute and no season pass to accommodate, your annual leave got a lot more flexible. It’s not realistic to just take one day off midweek if you have already paid for travel, or if the purpose of your break is to extend time out of the office. This changes when you work from home. Midweek breaks become more manageable and create two very short working weeks. It’s an opportunity to relax and recharge when you need it and not when it fits around your weekend or travel pass.

Take the break

A break from work and an adventure are two different things. Annual leave is there to ensure you get a rest from the work, not just a break from the office. You might not get the holiday or the adventure you’re used to, but you can still benefit from taking some annual leave right now. It’s an opportunity to step away from work; dedicate your time to that mental to-do-list, turn off the alarm and get some rest and recuperation or enjoy some sunshine fun with your family.

Whatever you choose to do with your annual leave, take it. Step away from the computer. Sign out of your work emails. Take the break. Live a less distracted life, if only for a couple of days. Give yourself the opportunity to create more balance in your life right now.

If work and home life are starting to merge more than you’d like, this article looks at practical ways to strike a balance when working from home and how to truly step away from work whilst trying to do it all at home; Work and Home Lines Getting Blurry.