21st June 2018
A number of recent surveys have highlighted the fact that us Brits are terrible at taking time out. In fact a survey by Glassdoor found that 40% of employees in the UK only used a maximum of half their annual leave over the past holiday year. Meanwhile 23% of us can’t help but check work emails while away, and a stressed out 15% of us even did some work to avoid falling behind upon return to the office.
But does this culture of not being able to switch off come from the employee or the employer? Consider that the survey reported that 50% of respondents felt they could completely switch off on holiday – which means another 50% couldn’t. And we feel for the 20% who are expected to put down their cocktail and work if commanded to by the powers that be. It’s hardly surprising that 24% of people surveyed said they’d used holiday days to attend a job interview.
Meanwhile a survey by British Airways found that on average UK employees are losing four days of holiday per person – and a whopping 69% of us didn’t take a fortnight’s holiday at all.
So what’s the fall out of this culture of eschewing (entitled) downtime for unpaid work – which it is if you’re at your desk when you should be on the beach? Experts say it means that those of us working in companies where taking holiday is frowned upon will sooner or later start looking for positions where switching off is not seen as a weakness.
So what can employers – and employees do – to ensure we’re taking the time off that we’re entitled to? Not surprisingly, on the employer’s side it boils down to company culture. It’s in a firm’s best interest to make sure their employees have a healthy work-life balance: it reduces absenteeism, resentment and disengagement for a start. If a department threatens to fall apart because one person is on the Costa del Sol, it’s time to take a look at the number of staff you have working within that team, and arrange training so that other people can pick up the slack when someone is away.
As for the employee, they need to ensure that enough notice is given to allow teams to cope without them – it’s only fair for all involved and will enable them to stand a better chance of relaxing while they’re away. And if you’re guilty of trying to micromanage and you take the attitude that you’re simply too busy to go on holiday and that the company will collapse while you’re sunning yourself in the Algarve, you need to press pause for a moment as this is not a sustainable mindset. Will your firm really go up in flames if you take a little time out?
If your company, or indeed you, are less about sun, surf and sangria and more about spreadsheets, skillsets and stress it’s time to reconfigure – after all, even sunburn has to be preferable to burn out!