Creative campaign by designer Sam Hennig
This simple but very effective unofficial campaign created for KitKat by Sam Hennig for a crowdsourced marketing platform One Minute Briefs captured the advertising world’s imagination and all those adjusting to “Zoom fatigue.”
Playing on KitKat’s famous slogan “Have a Break,” the current changes to the way we work are posing a problem to both employers and employees, with a reluctance to avail holidays in lockdown. Whilst some employers have responded by altering their working week to four-day weeks, others are left grappling with how to respond.
2020 carry forward
A study of 100,000 U.K. workers from staff management software provider RotaCloud released in early December showed Brits had far more unused annual leave in 2020 than in previous years. The average employee had 13.8 days of holiday leave still to take, up by 4.1 days compared to the same time in 2019 (9.7 days).
Denise Jennings, Head of HR at RotaCloud, commented, “with not being able to travel, many of us have felt like taking time off just to spend it at home hasn’t been worth it — and as a consequence, for a lot of us, annual leave has been piling up.” As many companies have allowed employees to carry forward a portion of unused annual leave in 2020, the issue is only exacerbated.
The current home-working boom has also seen a rise in people working longer hours. The latest research released last month from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that more than three million people carried out the equivalent of £24 billion of unpaid labor during 2020. This equates to around 7.7 hours of unpaid overtime every week.
It found that most of the top ten occupational groups for unpaid overtime were jobs likely able to be done from home.
The increased hours coupled with lack of holidays being taken is heightening the risks of burnout, which many employers are attempting to proactively address.
Reclaiming the home
One way employers are addressing this is by encouraging more regular sporadic days off at home purely to relax rather than just blocking the traditional two-week break for a getaway.
Barney Voss, COO of digital agency Tug said, “at the beginning of the first lockdown we called it ‘working from home’, but this has now transitioned to a state where we’re confined to ‘living where we work’. That’s a real strain, so our view as an employer has been to encourage our team to take time off, so that our team members can put that distance between themselves and work and reclaim their home as a place to relax and enjoy, rather than a multifunctional refuge from the virus.”
“Work, rest and adventure”
As more employees review where they work from, some employers are embracing this trend as a way of encouraging greater utilization of leave.
Bridie Gallagher, Managing Director at Glass Digital said “this year, we launched a remote working policy that allows staff to work from almost anywhere in the world, one of the main reasons being to allow more flexibility with annual leave. A number of employees have told us that they’re looking forward to taking long-term trips in which they can balance work, rest, and adventure.”
Gallagher went on to explain that, “we have many staff with long-distance partners, friends, or family members who have made plans for extended visits once restrictions allow, using a mixture of remote working and annual leave to make the most of their time together.”
Liviu Tanase, CEO of ZeroBounce
One company that has responded in a different way altogether is ZeroBounce. Liviu Tanase, CEO of ZeroBounce, said, “we introduced our unlimited leave policy in January 2021 with the goal to eliminate processes that don’t have a positive impact on our service offering. Our policies previously were the more traditional fixed number of days a year increasing with tenure. We asked ourselves, ‘does it add any value to our service to micromanage how many days off a year an employee takes?'”
He proceeded to explain that “our initial fear of anyone abusing the unlimited time off policy has been replaced with concern that people are not taking the time to recharge away from work.”
In order to facilitate this, managers play an important role to ensure employee wellbeing is being addressed. Tanase says that it is for the “manager to be aware of how everyone is doing; offer to help with people’s workload and encourage them to take time for themselves.”
As the U.K. and other countries make plans to relax lockdown measures, it is likely that employees will resume planning for future holidays. Nevertheless, that will pose a whole different challenge in itself, with the vast majority of requests being made for the second half of the year.
A proactive approach to encouraging regular breaks throughout the year to support employee wellbeing will be essential for a healthy and sustainable approach to work.
I am the Founder & CEO of Learnerbly, the professional development platform working with scale-ups and progressive enterprises to support employees to own their own