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EMB Group

Holidays drive up employee stress

Posted: 19/07/11 by EMB Group

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

Research from Investors in People - the organisation that works with companies to improve performance - shows 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, with one in seven of whom saying 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. Worryingly, 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.

In contrast, just 30% said that they are confident that colleagues would be handling things effectively while they were away. Apparently this greater trust comes with age: 38% of managers aged 55 or more felt confident, compared to only 21% of 18-24 year old managers.

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

Stephen Smith, CEO of EMB Ltd - an enterprise and economic development company that delivers a range of business improvement services including The Investors in People Standard across Northamptonshire - says: “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.”

Other interesting findings from the research revealed:

  • 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.

Local organisations wanting to find out more about the benefits Investors in People can bring their business, should contact the Investors in People Central England Centre on 0845 872 7727 email or visit

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