Pre-Holiday Tension on the rise

Jul 28 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

'Pre-Holiday Tension' (PHT) is rising in offices across Britain as workers prepare for their summer holidays. Not only are six out of ten people are too busy to take all their annual holiday entitlement this year, but for one in five the pressure to finish their workloads and ensure things are running smoothly before they leave has developed into full-blown stress.

A survey of 5,000 workers for recruitment website suggests that the PHT problem is growing, with a third of workers claiming that the problem has become worse than it was three years ago.

PHT comes in many forms and typically emerges as workers work long into the night in the weeks leading up to their holiday. "I had to work an extra 80 hours to complete a project arranged after I booked my holiday", complains one female IT specialist from the North East.

The average UK worker will work an extra nine hours outside of normal working time to complete their workload and arrange a 'handover' before they go on holiday, though this rises to an average of 17 hours for Directors. Male workers appear more concerned than females however, and the average male will work an extra ten hours before going on holiday while the average female works an extra eight.

PHT is also cutting down the amount of time workers decide to take off for their holidays, with just four out of ten saying they will take their full holiday entitlement this year, down from half of workers last year.

For two per cent of respondents, going on holiday is just not worth the stress and some respondents have cancelled their holiday at the last minute due to PHT. "I had to cancel the family holiday at 10 o'clock the night before we were due to fly out", laments one manager from the South East.

The survey also finds that even when they are lying on the beach, many workers continue to worry about the office.

Nearly half of respondents worry something will go wrong at work while they are away and almost three out of ten feel important work decisions will be made in their absence. Four out of ten worry that they will have too much work top do when they get home, while one in ten admit to worrying they will be made redundant while they are away.

There are ways to combat Pre-Holiday Tension however, and one of the best solutions is for colleagues to take on extra work while their workmates are on holiday. Encouragingly, two thirds of those surveyed say their colleagues are happy to help while they are away. Just one in twenty respondents say their colleagues just let the work build up for when they return.

Dan Ferrandino, Managing Director of, said “it's encouraging that so many workers are stepping in to help relieve their colleagues' stress though and reassuring them the office is not going to fall apart while they are away.

“Cancelling your holiday because the stress at work has become too much is certainly not the answer - the best cure is a week or two relaxing in the sun."

Earlier this month, the Chartered Management Institute found that four out of ten British managers would find a way to check their work emails while they were on holiday and that increasing work commitments mean that four out of ten do not take up their full holiday allowance.

But the picture for small business entrepreneurs is even bleaker, according to, with fewer than one in three having the time to take a single day's holiday this summer, while a quarter would not be able to take longer than a week off.

Little wonder, then, that UK workers are widely reputed to have the shortest holidays and the longest working hours in Europe.