February 18th, 2015 / Insight posted in

Emails on the beach? Work calls by the pool? Is your annual holiday truly a rest from work?

By Zoe Wilson

It seems to be accepted by a number of us that when you reach a certain level of management, or chose to do a certain type of job, you will ‘keep an eye’ on emails and carry the work phone ‘just in case’ when going on holiday.
Even those of us who don’t have this expectation placed upon us tend to take a few days to unwind and switch off; so do we really get a break if we take our work phones and laptops with us on holiday?

I know that even if I wasn’t checking my emails on a daily basis, I’d still be thinking about whether I should be checking them, how often to check them and whether my colleagues back in the office were expecting me to be checking them more often.

I’m sure there has been the temptation to blame the lack of Wi-Fi or signal for not dealing with work whilst abroad, but should the expectation be any different when we are just taking a rest at home? After all, holiday is as much about people’s health and wellbeing as it is about meeting a statutory requirement isn’t it?

A number of studies have confirmed that people are more productive if they take periods of rest, and I have certainly come to appreciate that, as you climb the career ladder, a holiday becomes more of a necessity than a choice.

It is recognised that it does put pressure on businesses when their key employees are away from the office, but could you be doing more harm than good by asking them to stay in touch?

HR Grapevine wrote an interesting article claiming that “a third of employees fear the boss calling on holiday”, and interviewed Dr Woodman who stated that an uneven work life balance “could be damaging to employees’ health and wellbeing by increasing the risk of illnesses such as stress, depression and anxiety, and prevents employees from returning to their desks at the productivity levels expected after a restful break.”

My advice is to give as much space as you can for people to recharge their batteries and return to work rested and refreshed. Coping without them whilst on a planned holiday may be a lot less disruptive than desperately trying to manage when they go off sick.

You can also impress on individuals that they have a responsibility to ensure that work can be carried on by others effectively while they are away, so that the business is not negatively impacted by a holiday and they can get a proper rest while they are away from the office.