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HR professionals across organisations – big and small – face a dilemma as employees rack up unused annual leave.

Part of the problem in Hong Kong, and in most of the world, is that the going abroad for annual leave is not a realistic option due to the dual deterrents of mandatory quarantine and health safety concerns.

But accrued unused annual leave can also present a headache for the accounts department as it puts further financial strain on the company. This may mean, in turn, that leaders at an organisation will follow up with HR to put pressure on employees to take unused annual leave at a time they may not be willing to do so.

The fact that many organisations are offering employees unpaid leave during the ongoing pandemic, could also be a contributing factor in making them feel less compelled to take annual leave in the short to medium term.

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Then there is the issue of burnout. Out of about 2000 employees polled by charity organisation, SPANA, more than 50% said they had “completely written off” 2020 when it came to taking extended holidays from work.

While 75% off employees polled felt they were at risk of burnout, with the average worker conceding they need a break every seven weeks to recharge and maintain their mental health.

The study also revealed that while 70% of employees were content to simply take a few days to unwind at home, some want to go away to get a proper break.

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Over half pointed out that annual leave didn’t really constitute a holiday from work unless they actually stay somewhere other than their own home – something much more difficult under the current circumstances.

While the finding are based on British employees, Hong Kong workers are likely to have faced similar issues with regard to their annual leave this year.

“In a period of great upheaval and major change in a short space of time, the current situation is very stressful and challenging for many workers. And breaks from work are absolutely essential for our mental well-being,” said Geoffrey Dennis, SPANA’s chief executive.

Parts of this article first appeared on the HR Grapevine website.