According to a study by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) of more than 1000 UK workers and managers, British workers are not making the most of their holidays and are working through their annual leave.

The survey found that:

  • 61% of workers take their work phones or tablets on holiday and feel obligated to work (up from 54% in 2013).
  • 64% respond to emails during their time off
  • 54% have annual leave left at the end of the year
  • 28% take business phone calls
  • 8% go into the office.

However, only 28%  reported that they had had arguments with friends and family about working whilst on holiday, down from 37% in 2013 – this may indicate that it is becoming the norm for employees to be accessible at all times.

The survey also indicated that the prospect of an upcoming holiday caused 73% of workers to feel more stressed out, and increase from 71% in 2013.  68% of workers also stayed late in the office the day before. It also showed that around 18% of workers come back from their holiday more stressed than when they left, maybe due to having to catch up with their workload on their return.

Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management, Charles Elvin, said: “Britain’s workforce is not making the most of their annual leave. Our survey paints a picture of an over-stressed workforce, who feel they cannot afford to switch off out of fear of falling behind on workloads.

“It is crucial that people are able to make the most of their time off work to fully relax, reflect and recharge. This allows them fresh perspective and energy to tackle their work on return from holiday.”

Charles Elvin continued: “Finding work-life balance is easier said than done. But organisations can foster positive work environments by encouraging staff to use their full holiday allowance, hand over responsibilities to co-workers in the lead up to leave and have face to face meetings on their return.”

The key message Alcumus gives for workers is to plan well in advance, give adequate warning and ensure an effective handover. Things will crop up when you are on holiday and you need to ensure your manager and colleagues are equipped to deal with them. If possible get a colleague to check your emails and remove all unnecessary items from your inbox, and ensure your out of office reply for both your email and phone includes return dates and someone that can be contacted in your absence.

Employers also have a role to play in encouraging reluctant staff to take holiday and to coach them on how to do it well.  Not taking holiday can actually damage the individual’s very important bond with the company, especially in cases where workers will not get paid for their missed leave.