August is a popular time for holidays. Longer, lighter, and lazier days are here as the school holidays are in full swing. On some days, those grey clouds are even replaced by an azure sky.
In companies across the UK, employees fall into two categories: Those who plan their time off and put in leave requests at the start of the year to make the most of their paid time off, and those who don't. And if you don't plan your holiday time, the summer can vanish, and before you know it, fireworks are filling the skies.
An ephemeral summer is summed up in Enid Blyton's Five Go Off in a Caravan. "I do love the beginning of the summer hols,' said Julian. "They always seem to stretch out ahead for ages and ages. 'They go so nice and slowly at first," said Anne, his little sister. "Then they start to gallop."
Why August is a month of rest
August not only marks International Happiness Happens Month, but it is also the perfect time to take some rest and spend some time away from the office. Statistically, taking annual leave creates more happiness at work and at home.
It's easier to take time off this month. Emails tend to be quieter, client meetings are often minimal, and conferences are usually on hold until September. If you're working with clients in mainland Europe (especially Italy, Spain, and France), you might find offices closed for August too.
Taking a holiday from work has many benefits, including improved health, relationships, and success at work. And the good news is that we get paid to take time off too. In the summer of 1938, working-class Britons got their first experience of sun, sea, and sand thanks to a new law that meant they could take paid holidays. The new law said everyone must have one week's annual paid holiday. By the 1950s, two weeks of annual leave were common, and by the 1980s, most people had at least four weeks of annual leave.
Three benefits of taking time out
This August, take time to refresh, whether you're holidaying or working. Studies have shown that taking time away from work can have physical and mental health benefits. People who take holidays have lower stress levels, a lower risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals.
- Health benefits: A study from the State University of New York found that annual holidays reduced the risk of death by about 20% and the risk of death from heart disease by as much as 30%. Improved sleep and motivation are also added health benefits when taking time off.
- Career benefits: A study by America's International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that employees who take their annual leave are 40% more productive and less irritable, depressed, forgetful, and easily fatigued compared to employees who don't take annual leave.
- Better work-life balance: Taking time away from work can help you disconnect and spend quality time with family and friends, improving your overall work-life balance.
Being away from work commitments and time constraints enables parents to reconnect and enjoy spending time with their children. A Telegraph article cites that 65% of parents say they only play with their children occasionally, so August is the perfect time to grab the opportunity on holiday to play more. Now's the time to build that sandcastle.
Holidays are also a good time to catch up on quality sleep. A New Zealand Air study found that after two to three days of holiday, study participants averaged an hour more of good-quality sleep. When they returned home, they were still sleeping close to an hour more.
They say a change is as good as a holiday...
It's important to remember that the point of annual leave is to have work-free rest and relaxation, and that doesn't have to be international holidays. It's important to take regular breaks away from the demands and daily stresses of the email inbox and dealing with clients for your wellbeing, health, and personal life.
If the weather permits, why not bring a holiday vibe to your own garden? Jazz it up with stylish accessories for those holiday vibes! You can decorate the smallest areas with lanterns, wildflowers, and fairy lights for cosy days and evenings outdoors.
Use your time off to focus on a hobby or passion you enjoy, such as painting, writing, or gardening. Take some time out to read those books you've been wanting to read for a while or pick one of the latest bestsellers.
Try something new
You could also learn something new that isn't work or career-related. Take a class or workshop to learn a new skill or subject that interests you. From a cooking class to an archery session, websites like Groupon could give you some inspiration.
The benefits of changing your routine for a day or two include:
- experiencing more excitement in life
- encounter new and novel experiences
- preventing burnout
Research also shows that being exposed to new and different experiences actually boosts your creativity. Yet, in today's fast-paced world, we often forget that taking time out to do nothing also has its benefits.
Or do nothing at all
The Italians even have a phrase for it - 'Dolce far Niente'. It literally translates to the sweetness of doing nothing, and this August we should be all for it. The author John Lubbock also said: "Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."
A staycation gives us time to enjoy the simple delights of summer. A refreshing glass of cider on a balmy August evening or a refreshing ice cream. It's likely you will have friends who are also taking some time away from work that you can meet with.
A study from Harvard University about the benefits of strong relationships agrees that time spent with friends can improve health and happiness and even increase longevity. The research found that meeting with friends is an important opportunity to check in with each other, exchange ideas, and lend some social support to one another.
When did you last spend time exploring your local area, visiting museums, parks, and other attractions? Perhaps you've moved in recent months and haven't had time to see what your local area has to offer. Be a tourist for a day and see life through a different lens. It's amazing how many people who work in London haven't enjoyed any of its tourist attractions.
And there is the great outdoors too, with plenty of areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) to explore in the UK. For countryside lovers, there are many hidden delights, such as spotting skylarks, looking up at the cirrus clouds instead of our watches, and enjoying the smell of the summer rain we seem to be blessed with currently! There's even a scientific word for it: petrichor. A study showed that hiking in nature, disconnected from all devices for four days, led to a 50% spike in creativity. Few of us could disconnect for that amount of time, but walking outdoors still has countless benefits.
The great thing about the UK is that nowhere is more than 70 miles from the sea. This means that you can easily go on a day trip to the seaside. There are many popular seaside destinations, including Whitby, Brighton, Southwold, Whitstable, and many more.
Have a good one
These are just a few ideas to get you started. The most important thing is to use your annual leave in a way that brings you joy and helps you recharge. If you're not always the best at switching off, grant yourself permission to relax this holiday season. After all, summer only comes around once a year. If you're holidaying in August, enjoy! If not, plan one!
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.