We have all heard the phrase – Work-life balance. I won’t talk much about what it is and what we can do to achieve it. However, I’d like to focus on the concept of “taking time off work.” Why is this needed and why are people still not doing much around it?

All employees by law, are allowed a certain number of set days for sick leave, personal leave, and annual leave and on occasions, bereavement and other types of leave (e.g. paternity and maternity leaves).

Managers are often at hand to help plan around leave among team members to ensure that business operations are still efficient and ongoing given a potential drop in numbers over a certain period, such as summer holidays or at Christmas time.

But how come some people do not avail of this?

One reason is the nature of the work. For example in service-based industries such as transport, a taxi driver who is self-employed will have a different arrangement from another driver who is an employee of a business. The taxi driver depends on getting passengers for income and knows that if he takes a day off, then he loses income as he wouldn’t have been able to pick up passengers. In contrast, a driver of a business depends on the number of jobs given to him to do, and he is assured of a daily wage regardless of how many jobs are performed. Restaurant staff as another example,rely on holidays for more customers and bookings and require staff to work even on this public holidays. Medical practitioners rarely take days off too.

Another reason is the transferability of leave to cash. This used to be an option for most organisations where an employee who accumulates enough leave credits may be able to convert this to cash. Some employees prefer to cash out their leaves as they feel they can do more with cash. But most governments and some private organisations /businesses have imposed restrictions on this option now, sometimes getting their employees to apply for forced leave during the shut down periods instead of cashing it out. Some organisations limit the cash option for up to a certain dollar figure or the number of days to ensure that there is enough within the office budget to work around with.

A third reason is to simply accumulate leave credits. When an employee does not find any reason to go on leave, they would rather accumulate it and do a big application for leave as a lump sum at a later time, like if they intend to go on a long holiday, or for any family emergency where they would need a significant time off work to look after a sick loved one.

There may be other reasons, but employees often overlook the fact that taking time off work is important for their health and well-being. It is not just an OHS issue at work, for example if a surgeon as performed more than enough surgeries for one week or if a pilot has over-exceeded his flight time hours, but also these employees need time to re-energise and recover from the physical stress and demands of the job. They also need time off for other activities such as spending time with their families or attend to other interests or pre-occupations, or even just to do other personal errands. It is important to look after oneself, not to abuse the human body. On the other hand,employees also need to look into avoiding abuse of the concept of “time off work” extending it more than necessary.

Again it is all about the work-life balance. And speaking of balance, have your leave balances reviewed at work and if you have haven’t taken any time off lately, maybe now is the right time to think about it.