More than half of employees spend some of their holiday worrying about work. Managers could help staff plan ahead and get ready to relax

The summer is coming to an end and those of us lucky enough to have been away on holiday should have returned feeling rested and refreshed. But the reality for many people is that having worked themselves to a frazzle preparing for their annual leave, they then spend their holiday feeling anxious, guilty and stressed about what is going on in the office.

Research from Investors in People shows that more than half of employees (51 per cent) report working extra hours in the run-up to taking annual leave.

When asked how they felt when they finally started their holiday, nearly one in 10 workers claimed to feel guilty about leaving colleagues and nearly one in six feel stressed because they think work might not be done properly in their absence. Half of employees (51 per cent) said they did not think about work while on holiday.

In contrast, just 30 per cent said that they were confident that colleagues would handle things effectively while they were away. This greater trust seems to come with age – 38 per cent of managers aged 55 or over felt confident, compared with only 21 per cent of 18 to 24-year-old managers.

The research found that over a quarter (27 per cent) of workers left in the office felt more pressured when a colleague was on holiday, and younger employees were more likely to feel pressured than their older counterparts.

Summer stretch

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

'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 workloads accordingly. It's about careful planning and prioritisation well in advance.'

Other findings from the research showed:

  • executive directors are most likely to work extra hours before a holiday: only 24 per cent work normal hours whereas 39 per cent work at least seven hours extra;
  • 7 per cent of employees feel secretly smug that others are picking up their work while they are away;
  • 39 per cent of those that had felt stress or resentment when colleagues were away thought that clearer notes or instructions would help and 14 per cent wanted managers to set a better example.