How much holiday should I be taking a year?

Everyone’s trying to game the system and make the most out of their holiday days, but what is the best way to holiday? Frequent short breaks, or fewer long ones? And are the rules different if you’re self-employed?

How frequently should I holiday? 

It’s always uplifting to have something to look forward to and the sooner the better. Try and plan your holidays so you have things coming up every six to eight weeks, even if it’s just a long weekend away, this will help you avoid burnout.

If you only plan one or two long trips a year then the wait time can actually cause more stress. Not to mention the level of planning, the cost, and the time away from work for the lengthier vacation. Mix shorter trips with longer ones so you don’t wait too long between holidays, but have some that give you a longer break from the office to really switch off.

Unlimited holiday days 

A number of companies have introduced ‘unlimited holidays’ over the past few years with the thought that this would bring the ideal work-life balance for staff. It sounds like a dream but in reality, this concept has had some bad press.

Businesses like CharlieHR reversed their decision to offer it and not for the reason you might think. It’s been found that offering unlimited holiday days actually leads to employees taking less time off. 

Taking holiday when you’re self-employed

One of the biggest things to get over when you work for yourself is not getting holiday pay and feeling like you are losing out on earnings on top of spending money when you’re away. For this reason, build ‘holiday pay’ into your rate so that you can tell yourself that this isn’t the case. 

Don’t let money be an excuse for not taking time off – just scale down your plans if needed. Also, ask yourself what your measure of success is. Did you decide to work for yourself to earn as much as possible, or were the flexibility and work-life balance the main goals? If it’s the latter then the more time you take off, the better your business is doing (within reason!).

The world won’t end without you

A British Airways survey found that a third of Brits didn’t use up their annual leave in 2017, losing on average four days of holiday each.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re too busy to holiday or that the business will collapse without you there. This simply isn’t true and you’ll be better at your job for having some rest and relaxation.

Trial a four-day working week 

If you work for yourself or run your own business, how about testing a four-day working week? Microsoft recently trialled it in Japan and reported a 40% increase in productivity.

If you’re self-employed you’ll know how flexible working hours can frequently lead to open-ended days and working on weekends. Often this is because the unrestricted nature of when you can work leads to inefficient time at work.

Try being strict with yourself about your working hours and actually reducing them and you’ll probably find that you can get the same amount or more done in a shorter space of time.

Making the most of your holiday days in 2020 

Here are some clever ways to get the most consecutive days off work with the least amount of holiday days used in 2020.

  • Take eight days off at Easter (6th-9th and 14th-17th April) for 16 days off work (4th-19th April).
  • Get 18 days off in May (2nd-10th and 23rd-31st) by taking eights days off (2nd-5th and 26th-29th).
  • Take four days off in September (1st-4th) for nine days off work (29th August-6th September).
  • Take seven days off at Christmas time (21st-24th December and 29th December-1st January) for 16 days off work (19th December-3rd January).

In summary

Taking frequent breaks will make you happier and more productive, and it’s better to go little and often than save all your holiday for one big trip a year. If you can work remotely then also take advantage of this for a change of scenery. Just don’t annoy your partner or family by having the laptop or phone open constantly when you should be on holiday.

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Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.

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