Millions of UK workers aren't taking annual leave for fear of being judged

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Megan Murray
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22 million UK workers are losing on average four days of annual leave a year because they’re scared of being judged for taking holiday. 

New research from British Airways has shown that Brits are working so hard that we’re failing to take a holiday or use our allocated annual leave. 

A study from the airline uncovered some worrying stats surrounding the stigma attached to using annual leave, showing that many of us hold off taking a break because we’re “afraid” of what others in the office will think.

One-third of working Brits lost annual leave in 2017 for putting off using their allocated holiday time. In fact, not only have 52% of UK workers still got holiday time left over from last year but a staggering 22 million of us have lost some of it for good, averaging at four days wasted per person.

Although holidays are generally considered something to look forward to, rather depressingly the main hurdle seems to be our issues with achieving a work-life balance.

Not only are a third of people afraid to take their annual leave, but 16% felt guilty for taking the holiday that they’ve rightfully accrued. In addition, 49% of people said they were “too busy” to get away from the office, which suggests an unhealthy mindset and reluctance to let ourselves recuperate properly. 

Even when we do manage to take a break, we can’t switch off properly. 56% of those polled admit that they spend a lot of their holiday thinking about work, unable to leave the weight of their work life behind. 

This isn’t the first time Brits have been pulled up our poor work-life balance. In London especially, staying late at the office is seen as a badge of honour. Whereas in Denmark this notion is frowned upon, with the average Dane working 33 hours a week and leaving at 4pm on the dot to be with their family or do leisure activities. 

Although having a strong work ethic is admirable, taking time to rest and enjoy other parts of our lives is essential for our mental well-being, which in turn helps with performance in the office. Not only has working more than eight hours a day been shown to increase stress, it also heightens the risk of heart disease. When we’re in a good place mentally (which is easier achieved when we’re rested) we are actually more productive, 12% more to be exact. 

But instead of letting these findings bring us down, we’re using them as incentive to make the most of holiday time this year.

Stylist championed reclaiming your lunch break last year in a bid to get us out of the office and take time for ourselves, a sentiment that extends to using up our allocated annual leave. 

Most companies on average give their employees 28 days holiday a year, so here’s to using all of them in 2018 in one way or another. 

If you’re strapped for cash or taking two weeks away from your desk feels overwhelming, we’ve come up with five easy ways to use a day or two’s annual leave. Why not try taking a few days off a month throughout the year to spread out your time off, especially if you don’t plan on actually going away. 

Embark on a movie-marathon or series binge

If you’re feeling burned out at work, treat yourself to a guilt-free slob day. We’re talking hours of blissful Netflix watching in your pants, taking advantage of the platform’s January additions, with plenty of snacks and a glass of wine in hand.

Get out of the city for the day 

After being cooped up in the concrete jungle, getting back to nature is a good way to bring those stress levels down and detach from work. You don’t need to go far to see some countryside either. Pull on some wellies, wrap up warm and jump on a train for an hour or two and you’ll be breathing in the country air in no time. We’ve got a whole list of beautiful walking routes just outside cities up and down the country.

Have a short staycation 

If you’re time and money poor, you can still explore somewhere new and treat yourself to a hotel stay, even if it’s in the UK. There are lots of gorgeously decorated and picturesque boutique hotels around the country with rooms for £100 or less a night, which means you can enjoy the luxury of hotel-life for the night without breaking the bank. Take a look at our edit of the best budget boutique hotels and see if any float your boat. 

Visit the UK’s next City of Culture

It might never have occurred to you to give Coventry much thought, but as it’s just been named as the UK’s next City of Culture it could be time to change that. Take a trip for the day and experience the diverse and creative vibe of the city, which is home to Coventry Cathedral, the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, and the Coventry Transport Museum.

Sleep in a castle, tree house or narrow boat

Again, if you can only take a few days of your annual leave off at a time, holidaying in the UK is a great idea. Air bnb’s most wish-listed UK properties is not only seriously wanderlust-worthy but they’re not too far away. From trendy bell tents to ancient castles, these listings should be enough to drag you away from your desk. 

We might be halfway through January, but it’s not too late to add more ‘me-time’ to your New Year’s resolutions. 

Images: iStock / Raw Pixel


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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.