British employees feel obligated to work through annual leave

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Over half (61%) of UK employees find their relaxation time disrupted by work when taking annual leave, finds research from the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM).

The survey of more than 1,000 UK workers and managers reveals that staff feel obligated to work on holiday, with nearly three quarters (73%) reporting that they feel more stressed in the lead up to a break and almost one in five (18%) saying they return to work more stressed than before they left.

Charles Elvin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management, said:

“Britain’s workforce is not making the most of their annual leave. Our survey paints a picture of an over-stressed workforce, who feel they cannot afford to switch off out of fear of falling behind on workloads.

“It is crucial that people are able to make the most of their time off work to fully relax, reflect and recharge. This allows them fresh perspective and energy to tackle their work on return from holiday.”

Technology could take some of the blame. With workers contactable at all times, 64 percent admit that they read and send emails during their time off, 28 percent say they take business calls and eight percent still go into the office.

The research suggests that this culture of constantly being switched on is becoming a societal norm. More than half of workers (54%) don’t take their full allocation of annual leave, and just 28 percent of respondents said that working on holiday has caused arguments with friends and family, compared to 37 percent in 2013.

Charles Elvin added:

“Finding work-life balance is easier said than done. But organisations can foster positive work environments by encouraging staff to use their full holiday allowance, hand over responsibilities to co-workers in the lead up to leave and have face to face meetings on their return.”

ILM’s tips for cutting down holiday stress levels:

1) Plan for your absence – put together handover notes and give clear guidelines to reports on tasks they need to complete

2) Make sure that you inform key contacts you will be away – this will cut down on the number of messages sent in your absence

3) Try to plan your holiday timing wisely, so that you’re not away during critical stages of a project.

4) If you are planning to check work emails, establish ground rules and only do so once or twice a day and switch off your work devices in between

5) Set up a detailed out-of-office reply for both your email and phone line. Including dates you’ll be away and a person that can be contacted in your absence

6) Do not open your email account straight away upon your return – catch-up meetings with team members might be a better alternative

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