Workers struggle to escape work while on holiday

Jun 09 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Our thoughts may be starting to turn towards the summer vacations, but most of us find it hard to unwind or switch off when we are taking time off from the office, according to a new U.S survey.

The annual poll of 2,500 workers by recruitment firm found that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of Americans say they plan to work while on vacation this year.

However this is an improvement last year, when a third were planning to work while on their annual break.

A total of 16 per cent reported feeling guilty about missing work while on vacation and seven per cent actually feared their time off could lead to unemployment.

More than half of the workers polled said they worked under a great deal of stress, while three-quarters said they felt burnt out on the job.

While 84 per cent were planning to take a vacation this year, time constraints meant it might they might still not be taking enough time to recharge.

Whiel many Europeans enjoy five weeks or more annual leave, more than three out of 10 Americans are taking vacations of five days or fewer while one in 10 were limiting themselves to weekend getaways.

Some workers, in an effort to enjoy uninterrupted time off, have decided to lie about accessibility at their vacation destinations.

One in 10 blamed unreliable wireless connections and other technology issues to avoid work while away from the office.

Men (at 13 per cent) were slightly more apt to lie about being unable to find internet access or mobile phone signals to avoid being contacted by their employers, compared to women (10 per cent).

Yet men were also more likely to work while on vacation than women. A third of men expected to work on projects or check in with the office while on vacation, compared with a quarter of women.

"Work can be demanding, but taking it all with you just brings the stress to a new location," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at

"Cell phones, pagers and other electronic devices can create an e-leash of sorts. Planning ahead, managing expectations and setting boundaries with your co-workers are key to making sure you get the break you need," she added.

Haefner recommended workers giving early notice for the dates they planned to take off to make sure schedules ran smoothly.

Also, if you had a big project and a great vacation planned for the same week, expect one of the two to give.

Schedule the dates before and after the big stuff to lighten your load and enjoy your time off, she recommended.

Cross-training a co-worker to share your task can also be a good idea.

Giving clients an alternative contact via voicemail or an automated email response to let people know you'll be out and where they can get immediate assistance, so you don't experience inbox overload when you return.

By all means check in a couple of times during a week off, but if your job requires you to be a slave to your cell, you may want to talk it out with him or her before you go to establish boundaries.

And, if you're working for yourself, make sure you anticipate your busy seasons by reviewing your previous sales and current situation.

Save vacation time for slower periods and make sure to notify customers in advance, Haefner advised.