How do you fight the economic downturn, stimulate the economy and ease workplace stress, all at the same time?

Take a holiday, the federal government says.

An advertising campaign launched by Tourism Australia this week, called No Leave, No Life, aims to encourage workers to tap into an estimated $33 billion of accumulated holiday leave.

The scheme is supported by employer groups and aims to boost workplace productivity in stressful economic times and stimulate the domestic tourism industry, says Tourism Australia managing director Geoff Buckley.

“If we can unlock some of this leave and get people to use it to holiday in Australia, it would be of great benefit to our $65 billion domestic tourism industry,” Mr Buckley said.

One in four full-time employees has accrued 25 days or more of annual leave, he said.

“Stockpiling leave and not taking a break contributes to many workplace concerns such as lack of productivity, staff retention, employee commitment and morale,” Mr Buckley said.

Workers who dodge taking leave and stockpile holidays cost the economy $14.81 billion a year, research by Medibank Private found.

The 2008 study found that people who turned up to work stressed, or took sick leave because of stress, cost employers $10.11 billion annually.

It found that 3.2 days for each worker were lost every year because of workplace stress.

Workplace stress reduced business productivity and led to lower rates of economic growth, as well as reduced consumption, investment, trade and production.

Workplace stress can also affect employee health and has been linked to mental and physical health conditions including nervousness, tension, anxiety, depression and heart conditions.

Director of psychology services at Health Services Australia Dr Peter Cotton said the research was a good indicator of the changing nature of the workplace.

“Certainly, evidence is accumulating that when people are stressed … they aren’t engaged, aren’t motivated, and hence their productivity is much lower.

“People who perform well tend to have a balance in their work and family life,” Dr Cotton said.

“They’ll often work for periods of extended hours on various projects, but they’ll balance that out by taking a solid long weekend.”

“Where you don’t have that balance, that can still impact in terms of reductions in productivity.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said the leave initiative would help reduce stockpiled annual leave and stimulate Australian tourism.

ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson said the scheme benefited employers by stgeloping a healthier, more motivated and productive workforce and reduced current and future financial liabilities.

“Tourism is a major driver of the Australian economy, employs 480,000 people Australia-wide and is the life blood of many Australian communities,” Mr Anderson said.

“(Accumulated leave) is bad news for the health of both business and employees.

“It’s a simple lose/lose situation that can no longer be ignored.”