No rest for the workers

Jul 02 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The annual summer holiday is no longer the restful break it once was. Not only do office staff have put in hours of extra work before going away, but even when they think they have escaped, communications technology means that the office is never too far away.

Office workers complain that they have to work up to 50 extra hours in the weeks before and after they go away, deal with additional stress and suffer resentment from colleagues left behind.

Unsurprisingly, research by Office Angels found that many office workers feel they are no longer getting real benefit from their holiday time:

Eight out of ten work on average 25 extra hours before and after their holiday to keep up with their workload

One in three claim the last few days prior to a holiday are among the most stressful they experience all year at work, while two-thirds take up to three days of their holiday to wind down from work.

Almost nine out of ten say their ‘post-holiday glow’ disappears after two days back in the office, with more than eight out of ten feeling as tired and as stressed by the end of their first week back as if they hadn’t had a break.

A third say they receive little or no support from colleagues who resent being left behind to pick up the extra work

“The importance of having a break from work shouldn’t be underestimated – it boosts productivity, motivation and all round wellbeing,” says Paul Jacobs, Managing Director of Office Angels.

“Employers need to ensure their staff do get a proper break from work during their holiday and shouldn’t expect them to take work with them or contact them unless absolutely unavoidable.”

Compounding the stress of getting away, technology has also contributed to the demise of the traditional ‘work free’ holiday. Employees can now be emailed and called almost anywhere in the world, and three-quarters say they have been contacted by their boss during a holiday – a 15 per cent increase on five years ago.

The number of people admitting to working while on holiday has also risen sharply - from one in ten in 1999 to one in five today. The majority of people now say that they expect to have to pick up phone calls and emails during their break.

Half of those who worked while they were meant to be on holiday did so because they were worried about their workload when they got back, while a third were anxious about work in general.