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Bonus v breaks: Australians vote for work-life balance

It seems that despite the dangling carrot of hard cash, people recognise the superior value of rest and relaxation

A recent survey sponsored by revealed that given the choice between annual leave and a cash payoff, the majority of Aussies would take the holiday.

Australia’s Fair Work Commission made a ruling in 2015 that provided they have at least four weeks of annual leave remaining to be taken and their employer is supportive of such a measure, employees could choose to sacrifice up to two weeks of their holiday and be compensated with a cash bonus.

The ruling was made in response to pressure from employers who were struggling with employees stockpiling their annual leave. Recent data from market research company Roy Morgan reveals that 27% of the Australian workforce have over five weeks accrued.

This holiday hoarding is alleged to cause cash flow problems for employers, too often resulting in employees not working their notice period at the termination of employment. The Commission also ruled that employers can force workers to take annual leave if they have accrued more than eight weeks.

The research by found that 62% of the respondents would rather take their leave than the cash incentive; interestingly, the figure was lower for older employees. This may point to a generational shift in attitude to working culture, with younger people increasingly aware of the psychological and physical benefits of having a break.

Work-life balance is a phrase and concept that has gained currency over the last decade. Nobody needs statistics to explain the benefits of adequate rest and relaxation; we all know how refreshed we feel after a holiday.

Nevertheless, there are studies we can point to that back up in numbers what we already know from experience. A landmark study by Ernst and Young in 2006 concluded that for every 10 hours of leave taken, average annual performance ratings increased by 8%. It is well documented in France that ‘les grandes vacances’ – a standard two months off per annum – are fiercely protected on the grounds that a relaxed workforce is a creative and energetic workforce.

Taking adequate holiday increases not only our sense of wellbeing but also our overall productivity levels. Unsurprisingly, happy and rested employees are also effective workers and a healthy approach to holidays creates a business culture that nurtures not only individual but also organisational wellbeing.

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