The Work Foundation: Money, Tickets, Passport, Blackberry…?

LONDON, August 25/PRNewswire/ — The British summer holiday is synonymous with traffic jams, inclement weather and bored children, but for some it is all about work. Research on work-life balance(1) shows that 30% of Britons are failing to take their annual leave entitlement and it is because they believe they are ‘too busy’. Even when most are lying by the pool many workers feel guilty and continue to check their email and mobile phones for messages.

Male Britons in professional or managerial roles are most likely to fall victim to ‘holiday guilt’. This can partly be explained by the UK’s long-hours culture that fosters insecurity among those climbing the career ladder and breeds ‘presenteeism’. It is perceived that being seen and heard will lead to promotion whereas those away from the office might miss out. Ambitious employees keen to demonstrate their commitment to work are checking in with the office and not trusting others to look after things in their absence in an effort to show that they are indispensable.

Long hours working without taking adequate time off to recuperate can have detrimental effects on the individual and the company. Those working excessive hours risk severe physiological repercussions and long hours can have detrimental effects on their relationships with family and friends. This is shown in research from The Work Foundation – Still At Work, where men responded that they found it much more difficult than women to balance social/family commitments and work. Effects on companies that readily allow employees to work for long periods include dips in productivity, as employees who work without taking holiday will burn out; or reach the point of ‘marginal disutility’ (where their work ceases to be productive no matter how long they are in the office).

“Technology has enabled employees to work more flexibly and enjoy working from home, though it must be used responsibly. Switching off mobiles and Blackberry type devices while on holiday should be practiced by employees and encouraged by employers,” suggests Natalie Turner, researcher at The Work Foundation.

There are simple steps to ensure staff get a proper break and things don’t fall apart when key employees take leave. Experts at The Work Foundation recommend the following:

- Book your holiday far in advance and mention you are away every time key projects are being planned. Those who don’t book their time off in advance often end up taking what’s left and missing out on the good weather or Christmas festivities, to more organised colleagues

- Employees should organise themselves and their teams before going away and then lay down strict ground rules about holidays; this includes letting colleagues know when you are due back and that it will not be possible to contact you while you are away

- Think carefully about what may come up while you are on holiday and always try to always organise your work and projects with accessible systems

- Preparing handover notes that direct colleagues to key files that may be useful while you are away will mean things can progress in your absence and you won’t come back to a week’s worth of work

- Have a “holiday buddy” at work that you trust to take care of things in your absence. Then do a good job for them in return when they are away, the effort of handing over will get easier each time

Alexandra Jones, Associate Director of The Work Foundation and Project Director of the Employers for Work-life Balance Website adds that there is an onus on employers to discourage the culture of presenteeism and to ensure that productive staff stay motivated and satisfied in their work:

“Managers can start by setting an example of leaving on time and taking their holidays. They should also make sure they handover effectively and show they trust their staff to get on with the job while they are away by giving them responsibility in their absence and not phoning in to check up on them.

“The way jobs are designed is the key to ensuring work stays under control while people go away on holiday. People working in teams and sharing responsibilities means that roles do not become person dependent.”

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