When clients ask for my advice on how to retain talent, one of my top tips is to push your people out the door on time and ensure they take an uninterrupted holiday.
According to The 2014 Randstad World of Work Report, 50 per cent of Singapore-based employees place an increasing importance on achieving work-life balance. This means that work hours and leave can become the make-or-break factor that dictates whether they stay in a job or seek something new.
“The biggest issue is often persuading people to take their allocated leave,” shares Angela Campbell-Noë, Asia Senior Partner, Tulchan Communications. “Our industry can be a bit unpredictable and holidays can suffer, particularly during client deals or crises.”
Our increased dependence on mobile devices means that the lines between home and work have become blurred and burnout is becoming all too common, particularly in the PR and Communications industry.
And even if we manage to book leave, our connected lifestyle means that few of us truly switch off from work, particularly senior executives. Employers who make their staff take leave and ensure a decent handover with another team member so that they can completely switch off and recharge, will attract and retain talent for longer.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Netflix and Zynga are among the giants of the corporate world who have launched leave policies that encourage employees to take as much vacation time as they like – within reason.
For most employees, this seems like a dream come true. From a management perspective, unlimited vacation is a talent acquisition and retention tool that helps to build trust within their company.
While these types of policies might not be possible within smaller organisations or those with heavy customer-service demands, it does question standard leave allowances and whether they could be more generous based on an employee’s productivity levels and seniority.
However, when it comes to annual leave, it’s more about the quality than the quantity. For smaller businesses, it is important to implement a system to manage work around leave schedules. As Campbell-Noë shares, “Each of our client teams comprises between four and six team members so as long as a thorough handover has occurred, there should rarely be an issue with someone taking leave.”
Most of us carry a smartphone device with us at all times, and many people never switch off their phone, even while sleeping. So it’s no surprise that the smartphone is probably the first thing many executives pack for their holiday.
For a PR or Communications professional, a lot of work is based around quick response to issues and the media as well as ensuring information is distributed in a timely manner, so it can be hard to disconnect from office commitments and resist the urge to check emails.
An ‘out of office’ message used to provide some protection but a lot of senior executives don’t set those anymore, knowing that they will check emails while on leave and respond to urgent matters.
“If I plan a vacation, my first thoughts would be whether the clients’ projects are well-managed. They need to know who to go to within the agency should issues emerge. Fortunately, we do have staggered leave policy so that at any given time, there would be more than adequate resource to cover for each other,” says Marina Leung, Managing Director & Chief Branding Officer, Cohn & Wolfe (Greater China).
Campbell-Noë adds, “Reassuring my clients that they will continue to receive a seamless service, by ensuring that both they and my team know exactly who is responsible for what – and that there will be no surprises. This helps me relax when I’m away.”
A recent Expedia survey report revealed that 24 percent of Singaporean travellers check their email once or more a day on holiday. Employers who encourage their teams to disengage and practice handover protocols of workload to other team members, will ensure holidays are more enjoyable for their staff, with corresponding positive outcomes.
Of course, with today’s competitive corporate culture and our always-connected lifestyle, it is a challenge to take a holiday and to really use the opportunity to detach from work.
But those employees who do take uninterrupted leave will be happier, more energised and more productive. And employers who send their teams packing on holiday will create a happier, more loyal workforce.
The author is Emma Dale, Co-founder and Managing Director (Asia) at Prospect, a global talent resource consultancy within the PR and corporate communications sector with offices in London, Hong Kong and Singapore.