The impact of bank holidays on the economy has long been a topic of debate among economists and finance experts. There’s sufficient data to suggest that additional time off boosts spending, but what is the impact on employee productivity?
With May offering workers a jam-packed month of bank holidays, thanks to the additional day given for the King’s Coronation, it could prove to be an interesting case study in whether bank holidays have a knock-on effect on productivity, or if they actually manage to boost it.
Do bank holidays cause a productivity slump?
The 4 day week trial in the UK showed positive results, with most employers taking part reporting a boost in productivity, having swapped from a 5 day week. So surely, the same would be true for weeks with a bank holiday?
Not necessarily. For those organisations still operating on a 5 day week, a 4 day week due to a bank holiday usually means attempting to squeeze 5 days worth of work into a shorter time frame. This can leave employees feeling overworked and overwhelmed, and productivity can take a hit as employees struggle to feel motivated in the face of a growing workload.
Productivity can also be disrupted by the fact that a number of people use additional annual leave to coincide with bank holidays. This could either mean that employees to be less productive than usual as they look forward to some time off, or it could mean that their usual routine is made more difficult as they struggle to coordinate with colleagues or clients due to time off.
Improving engagement to improve employee productivity
Despite the challenges highlighted, bank holidays don’t have to cause a productivity slump. In fact, employers can see them as an opportunity to promote healthy work-life balance and improve employee engagement.
Employee engagement is a key issue when it comes to productivity. For example, did you know that disengaged employees have 69% higher absence rates, are 18% less productive than their engaged counterparts, and their work has 60% more errors?
While you may worry that more time off leads to a lower productivity rate, encouraging a positive culture around absence and leave can actually boost productivity in the long run. When employees are given sufficient time off to switch off and relax, they come back to work feeling refreshed and better equipped to tackle their workload.
Ingraining regular time off into the culture of your organisation will ensure that employees are used to regularly completing their work in a shorter time frame in the run-up to a break, so the knock-on effect around bank holidays will be minimised.
Boosting productivity with an alternative approach to bank holidays
If you are still noticing that bank holidays are having a negative impact on productivity levels then it’s worth bearing in mind that one size doesn’t fit all. A number of organisations already don’t offer employees bank holidays off as standard, whether that’s due to a non-office environment (manufacturing, hospitality), or the need for constant cover (customer support teams).
In the UK, employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave per year, which equates to 28 days for a full-time employee. This allowance includes the 8 public holidays, although organisations don’t have to offer these as fixed days off.
A number of organisations are now moving a flexible bank holiday approach, where those 8 days are simply included in everyone’s annual leave allowance to be used as they please. Moving to a policy like this can not only help to better manage resources and maintain productivity levels in a more year-round way, but it can also be good for employee engagement and cultural inclusivity.
We recently held a webinar covering the topic of whether or not a flexible bank holiday policy, also known as a ‘pick and mix’ bank holiday policy, could better promote cultural inclusivity. You can watch the session on demand to hear from speakers Nahida Ahmed, Senior Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant at HMRC, and Paul Knighton, Senior HR Business Partner at EE, where they discuss the benefits and challenges of such a policy.
Jenni Littlehales is a marketing professional and an experienced author with a background in a wide variety of industries. Her understanding of people, wellbeing and associated challenges give a unique perspective in the evolving landscape of HR and technology.