Vacation stress is getting us down

Apr 24 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Nearly five months into the working year and the holiday season is starting to loom large. But if you expect to come back from vacation refreshed and recharged, you might want to think again.

A quarter of managers admit they return from vacation more stressed than when they left, with a third having spent at least part of their break checking in with the office - often every day.

A survey of more than 2,000 workers by recruitment firm Hudson has found that more than a third of managers were expected by their bosses to be accessible while on vacation, despite the recognition that a complete break is the only way truly to recharge someone's batteries.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, non-managers were less likely to need to remain in contact, with just 14 per cent saying they checked in regularly, a fifth being required to leave contact details and just 16 per cent coming back more stressed as a result.

Intriguingly, however, the Hudson poll discovered that, despite this, managers anticipated taking more time off this year than their non-manager counterparts.

More than half planned to take both a full vacation and a long weekend, compared with 44 per cent of non-managers.

Non-managers were also more likely than managers to expect only to be able to get away for long weekends, (22 per cent versus 18 per cent).

Nearly half of the employees polled were offered more than 11 vacation days each year by their employer.

Yet more than half did not use all of their vacation, with under a third taking fewer than half of their allocated days off.

A fifth only got away for long weekends and 30 per cent had called in sick when they were not actually ill.

A growing number of employers, covering nearly half of the workers in the poll, now also offered workers a set number of days off a year for sick leave, personal and vacation time, with more than a quarter providing a bank of time for workers to use as they saw fit.

Such extra time is becoming increasingly important, a separate survey has reported, as more than half of workers now take up to 10 days off work a year to look after sick children or older relatives

The study by work-life benefits provider Workplace Options found that nearly six out of 10 employees or their spouses missed between three to 10 days of work in the past year because of a lack of adequate back-up options over child or elder care.

Providing access to some form of emergency back-up care was therefore a perk hugely valued by men and women alike.

Nine out of 10 of both sexes said they were "nearly" or "extremely" certain they would use back-up care if it were available at their company.

Previous research by WPO had highlighted the fact that most employees needed at some point to work shortened workdays because their child care or elder care arrangements fell through, so reducing their productivity and costing employers billions of dollars per year.

In its latest survey, when workers were asked if they or their partner had missed any work in the past year because they did not have backup care, 59 per cent said yes, with 56 per cent saying this accounted for three to 10 days of work.

Additionally, 59 per cent had also called in on short notice to use vacation time or sick leave because they did not have back-up care.

"With increasing numbers of working parents also having to care for elderly relatives, the need for back-up care services is rising," said Alan King, Workplace Options president.

"For a reasonable investment, companies that invest in backup care support services realise huge savings as a result of reduced absenteeism and higher employee productivity and retention," he added.