Desk-bound managers too busy for holidays

Jun 16 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Almost two-thirds of desk-bound UK executives are failing to take their full holiday allowance and nearly half lose up to two weeks holiday each year because they fail to book time off.

According to research published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), this reluctance to leave the office means that nearly 19 million holiday days are not taken each year - a cost benefit to UK plc of 3.5 billion.

The CMI questioned 553 managers and found that 63 per cent are not using their full holiday allowance.

This is despite more than four out of 10 managers strongly agreeing that holidays 'recharge their batteries' and seven out of 10 admitting that a break helps them to cope with workplace stress.

The pull of desks over departure lounges is blamed by a third of managers on their heavy workload, with a quarter concerned that deadlines will not be met if they stop working on holiday and 17 per cent suggest that they find it hard to 'let go' of their responsibilities

Almost one fifth - 18 per cent - also claim they simply enjoy their work, with only a small minority (five per cent) putting lost holiday time down to poor personal planning.

But the survey also reveals a 'swap shop' mentality, with many executives keen to trade annual leave for other benefits.

With almost a third carrying over unused holiday from one year to another and 17 per cent saying they were already able to exchange days off for cash, many also expressed a desire for the option to 'sell' holiday time. One in five wanted the chance to exchange holidays for flexible working programmes and almost one in 10 suggested gym membership as an alternative.

"Individuals clearly see the benefits of a break from work, but still appear unwilling to have a proper rest," said the CMI's Jo Causon.

"In the short-term this may seem like a good idea, but the idea of 'all work and no play' is not a recipe for long-term success."

The survey also reveals that although most managers encourage their teams to take a proper break, many are unable to fully relax, themselves. Almost a quarter admit to checking voicemail and emails when they are on holiday and more than one in 10 contact their employer by choice more than once a week.

Yet there is some respite for their colleagues, with three-quarters claiming they never contact team members who are on holiday.

And asked about attitudes to time off, a mere one per cent of respondents said they did not use their full entitlement because of pressure from their line managers.

Similarly, only two per cent of respondents said the main reason they had not used all their holiday entitlement was because of corporate culture and just four per cent of employers admitted they would refuse requests to watch sporting events.

Jo Causon adds: "Britain continues to operate a long-hours culture, but it is clear from numerous studies that that employees are not afraid to work at this level providing they feel valued and are allowed to work more flexibly.

"Companies need to sit up and address this because rigid policies may produce a culture of 'presenteeism' but do not guarantee high levels of performance.