It’s common knowledge that the NHS is a tough place to work, whatever your role is. At the trust I work for, I’m entitled to a generous six weeks of annual leave, which is very much needed. Through my three years of working in the NHS I’ve picked up a few tips, which might help you to make the most of planning and using your well-earned annual leave. Not only is it important how you plan your annual leave, but you also want to spend your time off in the right way so that you feel refreshed and relaxed for when you go back to work.
1. Use your crazy shift pattern to your advantage
Planning your annual leave is one of the rare times that having a completely unpredictable work schedule can work in your favour. Working twelve and a half hour shifts means you normally work three shifts a week, with four days off. You can be entitled to four “day off requests”, which are days you can request not to work, but don’t use up your annual leave. To get the maximum amount of days off, try using your day off requests around your annual leave, which could give you up to eleven days off, but only using one week of annual leave. Your requests might not be accepted, but it’s always worth a try. Another option is to swap shifts with colleagues to get more days off close to your annual leave dates.
2. Book 75% of your annual leave as soon as you can
Employers like it if you book all of your annual leave as soon as possible, which seems logical as they can plan their staffing around when people are off. I try and book most of my leave early on, as then it’s much more likely to be approved, especially during peak times such as school holidays and half terms. I always leave some weeks un-booked to make sure I can request off weeks for things that pop up during the year, like weddings and holidays.
3. Spread the weeks out over the year
This is actually quite difficult to do sometimes, and I always seem to struggle to spread my weeks out evenly throughout the year. Working shifts can be really full on, so try and give yourself a week off every few months or so. You want to try and avoid having a long time between breaks, as working such long and busy shifts can be really difficult. When you know you have a week of annual leave coming up, it makes things a lot easier mentally when work is tough, because you know you’ve got that period of time off coming up.
4. If you can afford to, try not to do any bank shifts
I know this is a luxury for a lot of people, but unless you really have to, I’d advise to try and not work extra shifts in your annual leave. A lot of people think working in their time off is a good idea, as you can earn some extra money on top of your paid leave, but mentally and physically everyone deserves and needs a break. You need the time off to rest and recharge, and the price you pay if you don’t do this can be much higher than the money you earn for the extra shifts.
5. Plan what you do in your annual leave wisely
This is also something that I’ve found pretty tough in the past. When you work a lot of nights and weekends, your annual leave is the perfect time to meet up with all those people you’ve haven’t been able to see because of work commitments.
I hope these tips help you get the most out of your annual leave. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy your time off – you deserve it!
Love Lottie x
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