Britons are too tuned-in during time-outs

2004

Britain is in danger of becoming a nation too afraid to put its feet up and go on holiday as over-work makes managers reluctant – or unable - to use their full holiday allowance each year.

A survey of more than 3,000 managers by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that three-quarters (76 per cent) feel that their professional responsibilities have affected their holiday, with many claiming to interrupt time off to attend to work duties.

Only half (53 per cent) claimed to use their full holiday entitlement, a big fall on the two-thirds who said the same last year.

More than one-fifth of those questioned said that 'in-tray influx' was one of the main reasons for them not taking a proper break. Four out of ten said that they would expect to have to deal with more than 100 emails on their return after just one week away and three per cent say that they would have more than 500 emails waiting for them.

A quarter claimed that the need to ensure project deadlines were met resulted in them working on holiday, while more than a fifth (22 per cent) admitted that they find it hard to let go of responsibilities and give work to colleagues.

Even when managers are not actually working on holiday, they increasingly try to keep in touch with their colleagues. A quarter take a laptop or PDA away with them specifically to access work and more than four out of ten (43 per cent) leave contact details with their employer (up from 29 per cent in 2003).

But for a quarter of those surveyed, working on holiday is not something they worry about. They said that they loved their jobs and were happy to work when they were meant to be relaxing.

Despite these signs of creeping workaholicism, it is clear that most managers recognise the need to have a break from work. More than eight out of ten (85 per cent) said that any time away from the office recharges their batteries, and one in ten even said it rejuvenates interest in their career.

But for almost half – some 45 per cent – a holiday makes them question their current working lifestyle.

Christine Hayhurst, the CMI's director of professional affairs, said that while accepting the need for holidays was one thing, too many managers failed to act on this.

"Despite being given more time to take holidays and an apparent willingness to relax, the amount of real time they spend away from work is still at a low level," she said.

"Much of this is down to a drive to succeed, but managers should have a sense of realism about the quantity and quality of their work. After all, it is possible to do a job well, without being at work for long hours."

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