Taking a holiday is like putting fuel into a car. A necessity. It replenishes the body, provides an opportunity to switch off and recharge the batteries. I am mixing my metaphors now, but you get the point.
I was reminded of the importance of taking a break by someone I respect a lot as a leader. He can see I am tired and strongly suggested it is the only way to retain intensity and focus. And of course, he is right.
When the country went into lockdown, Purple went into overdrive in supporting our disabled clients and their carers. We agreed staff could suspend their planned annual leave if they wished. Some rightly took the opportunity to have a break, albeit a stay-cation during lockdown, but many staff decided to cancel their annual leave and work through a really intensive period. A distraction at least from the holiday that should have been.
With the exception of a couple of days over the Easter period, I have not had a break since I took two days off during February half term. A lot has happened since then, on both a personal front (see my RIP Badger blog) and at work where I have wanted to lead from the front.
Unlike most organisations, Purple’s annual leave year runs from July to June so there will be a lot of carry over when staff receive their new holiday entitlement later this week.
The issue of outstanding leave also raises a challenge for the organisation. It is not difficult to predict a flood of requests for two weeks off in the run-up to Christmas, and the same next Easter. If we are not careful, no-one will be around next June as people take their remaining leave before the cycle starts again and the normal practice where, if you don’t use it, you lose it, returns.
Back to the fuel analogy. I think it is probably right staff should use up at least their carry over leave before the end of September. And then start to eat into their 2020/21 allocation. This equally applies to me.
The problem is not knowing the impact of lockdown easing and the demands for our activities. Purple’s work with businesses simply stopped overnight. For a lot of reasons, we need to get it going again. Myself, like other colleagues, need to be around at the moment business picks up again rather than taking an enforced break. And probably a break which does not involve a holiday as we would typically recognise it.
For the last few years I have always taken two weeks leave when the children’s school finishes for the summer. My year is pivoted around this core break. It motivates me in the weeks leading up to it and keeps me going during the autumn and early winter. Nothing is currently planned, and the diary is starting to get busier already for July.
One of those activities I have agreed is a webinar organised by Visit England on accessible tourism (register here). It is one of the sectors hardest hit by Covid-19 and attracting disabled customers could be an important part of kick starting the industry once more.
I have been very privileged with holidays in recent years, but our favourite was our week to the Isle of Wight. There is so much of England, and the UK, to explore. Making UK destinations more accessible will open up these opportunities for me and for the 13 million other disabled people.
Taking a break doesn’t have to literally mean going away. I was reminded of its importance on Father’s Day when my entire focus was on my four kids and not glued to emails coming through my mobile phone.
I will think very hard about what I have just written when I go out later to fill up the car with fuel.
23 June 2020