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Home > News > July 2004 > 14-Jul-2004

Britain's managers should learn to relax

Britain is in danger of becoming a nation too afraid to put its feet up and go on holiday, according to a survey conducted by the Chartered Management Institute. More than 3,000 managers were questioned, and the Institute found that work overload has reduced the number of managers prepared to use their full holiday allowance each year. However, the UK's managers also reveal a wide range of musical and literary tastes to help them tune out of 'work mode'.

Only half (53 per cent) claimed to use their full entitlement, compared to 66 per cent last year. The survey found that many managers blame work commitments for their growing failure to take a proper break. Most managers (76 per cent) suggested that their professional responsibilities have affected their holiday, with many claiming to interrupt time off to attend to work duties.

Key causes of work interfering with holidays were identified as:

  • In-tray influx: more than one-fifth are concerned about the work waiting for them and 41 per cent expect to have to deal with more than 100 emails on
    their return after just one week away. 3 per cent have more than 500 emails
    waiting for them
  • Project pressure: one-quarter claimed that the need to ensure project
    deadlines were met resulted in them working on holiday, with 4 per cent
    breaking from their annual leave to attend meetings.
  • Difficulty delegating: 22 per cent admitted that they find it hard to let go of responsibilities and give work to colleagues.
  • The 'novel' approach: 20 per cent spend their holiday time catching up with urgent background reading to keep on top of work-related issues and 74
    per cent read newspapers to see what is happening at home.
  • Employment enjoyment: love of the job was identified by 25 per cent as a core factor in their choice to work on holiday.

Even when managers are not actually working on holiday, they increasingly try to keep in touch with their colleagues. 26 per cent take a laptop or PDA away with them specifically to access work and almost half (43 per cent) leave contact details with their employer (up from 29 per cent in 2003).

Ways to relax

However, the signs are that managers recognise the need to have a break from
work. Eight in ten (85 per cent) suggest that any time away from the office recharges their batteries, 11 per cent say it rejuvenates interest in their career and 45 per cent suggest that it makes them question their current working lifestyle.

As far as respite is concerned, when asked about the relaxation music of choice, the most frequent response was 'classical' followed by so-called 'chill out' tracks. Managers identified Mozart and Beethoven as their most popular composers and 'chill out' music was described as anything written or performed by The Beatles, Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac or Coldplay.

When managers are not catching up on work-related reading, their favoured authors are John Grisham, Terry Pratchett and Bill Bryson. Most seek light reading, humour or intrigue in the books they choose to take on holiday, and the least popular genre is horror.

Christine Hayhurst, director of professional affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, says: "Managers are only too aware of the importance of a good break. However, it is clear that there is a long way to go between recognition and action."

She adds: "Despite being given more time to take holidays and an apparent willingness to relax, the amount of real time they spend away from work is still at a low level. Much of this is down to a drive to succeed, but managers should have a sense of realism about the quantity and quality of their work. After all, it is possible to do a job well, without being at work for long hours."

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