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Home > News > July 2007 > 17 July 2007

Holidays drive up employee stress, says survey

The summer holiday season is approaching - but new research suggests the prospect of leaving work is causing UK employees anxiety, stress and ever-longer working hours.

The research, from Investors in People, says that more than half of employees (51%) report working extra hours in the run up to taking annual leave. The problem is worst amongst owner managers, one in seven of (14%) of whom said they could work 16 or more hours - the equivalent of about two extra working days - just before a holiday.

When asked how they felt when they finally made it on holiday, only half of employees (51%) said they don't think about work when on holiday. Nearly one in ten (9%) of workers claimed to feel guilty about leaving colleagues - and nearly one in six (15%) feel stressed that work might not be done properly in their absence. According to the research, just 30% said that they are confident that colleagues would be handling things effectively while they were away.

The research also found that over a quarter (27%) of workers left in the office feel more pressured when a colleague is on holiday with younger employees more likely to feel pressured than their older counterparts.

Simon Jones, acting chief executive of Investors in People UK, said: "Holidays should be time to relax - not worry. It's important that employees have confidence in their employers and their colleagues to handle things effectively whilst they are away, rather than getting stressed or putting in ever-longer hours in the days before they go.

"Of course, part of this is down to individuals but managers can guard against the inevitable 'summer stretch' by openly co-ordinating and discussing holiday dates, identifying potential pinch points and planning extra resource or balancing workloads accordingly. It's about careful planning and prioritisation well in advance."

The research also found:

* Executive Directors are most likely to work extra hours before a holiday: only 24% work normal hours whereas 39% work at least 7 hours extra

* The technology/ telecoms sector is the most conscientious in leaving detailed handover notes for colleagues when they're on leave (21%) with employees in the local government sector being the least diligent in this way (9%)

* 7% of employees feel secretly smug that others are picking up their work while they are away

* 39% of those that had felt stressed or resentment when colleagues were away thought that clearer notes or instructions would help, and 14% wanted managers to set a better example

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