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61% of Workers Feel “Obliged” to Work While on Holiday

A recent study from the Institute of Leadership and Management paints a stark picture of our limited free time. While “switching off” and taking time away from the office has long been known to boost productivity it seems that many of us are being denied even this free time.

The research reveals that more of us than ever before are doing some kind of work while officially away from the office. Rather than leaving our careers behind for a few unhindered weeks in the sun, instead workers are increasingly taking some of that baggage with them.

According to the study the number of workers doing work while supposedly on annual leave increased by 7% over the last two years – reaching an all-time high of 61%. That almost two thirds of us feel the need to do some work while on holiday is an indication of our “always on” society and growing workloads for many individuals.

Worryingly respondents to the survey of 1000 workers found that stress levels actually rise as vacation time neared. It seems the feeling of being “cut off” from the activities at work – not to mention the accruing build-up of urgent tasks in one’s absence – is actually leading the opposite effect of the intended time away. While in the past some workers enjoyed a “holiday feeling” – an anticipation of freedom and relaxation – in the weeks leading up to their holiday these days the feeling experienced by many is more one of dread.

No office worker will be surprised to hear that the greatest woe suffered by holidaying workers is that of email overload. 81% of those surveyed complained about excessive emails on their return, encouraging 64% of those surveyed to actually check and respond to email while away. Even in today’s world of out-of-office replies it is worrying to note just how controlled many workers feel by the never-ending slew of emails arriving in their inbox.

While quickly checking email might not be considered too extreme, there are other examples. A surprising 25% of workers surveyed actually made business phone calls while on annual leave, while 8% actually went into the office at least once while officially “on holiday”.

Perhaps the most depressing statistic of all refers to how workers feel when returning to work after their holiday. A small measure of the “holiday blues” is perhaps to be expected after a few weeks of sunshine and relaxation. However the study suggests that fully 18% of workers felt more stressed by the end of their holiday than they did at the beginning.

As should be clear, it seems that many workers are missing out on the potential benefits of taking time off, and are instead simply lying on the beach worrying about what is happening back home. If you’re heading away this year try to what you can to switch off – repeated studies suggest it’ll boost your productivity on your return – which is good for both you and your employer.

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