The stress of taking time off

Why is it so stressful to take time off work – both before and after your holiday? Advice included for employers and employees alike…

We’re all encouraged to book breaks from work and with good reason. Holidays (whether spent at home or away) are necessary to help us unwind and restore our productivity and focus. However, what do you do when the act of taking a break proves stress-inducing?

  • An astonishing 91% of UK employees feel ‘more stressed’ in the days before their break, according to research by Wrike. 92% of German employees feel the same.
  • 43% of the UK group reports feeling ‘very stressed.’
  • This is compared to 42% of French workers who only attest to being ‘slightly stressed’.
  • As for returning from a break, 84% of UK professionals experience stress at this stage.
  • Only 30% of French employees and 29% of Germans report the same.

Why is it so stressful to take time off?

The article discusses the ‘disruptive’ nature of work holidays and how challenging it can be to step away from – or finish – projects to go on leave. This can also leave you worrying about those tasks you’ve got to return to.

These sentiments are supported by ‘‘No time for a holiday?‘, in which we hear that being ‘too busy’ to book time off is the leading reason for people not using their full holiday entitlement.

Advice for employees on minimising your pre- and post-holiday stress:

As we’ve said, breaks are an essential part of your work-life balance.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now officially recognised burnout as a real condition. It’s defined as: ‘energy depletion, exhaustion, and negativity resulting from chronic workplace stress.’ So you need to take time off, but you need to know how to do it well.

Harvard Business Review has some excellent tips, some of which are summarised below…

  • Build relaxation into daily life, rather than leaving it until your holiday.
  • If you can, prioritise all tasks a few weeks before you go and ask your manager’s opinion on your list. Focus on this list.
  • Let all necessary parties know that you’ll be away (and, where possible, that you won’t be contactable during this time).
  • Handover tasks to anyone who is covering your absence and let your manager/boss know who this will be.
  • Tidy your desk to reduce clutter-associated stress.
  • Prepare your out-of-office.

As for your return, TIME recommends

  • Allocating some space to catch up on emails as soon as possible.
  • Where suitable, asking to work from home on your first day back.
  • And phasing into a ‘manageable work pace and workload’ to reduce overwhelm.
  • Mind additionally suggests: preparing a healthy dinner and breakfast ready for your return.
  • Using your lunch breaks and leaving on time throughout your first week.
  • Prioritising and setting goals for your upcoming tasks.
  • Decluttering your desk (if you missed that from the above list!).
  • Organising a catch-up with whoever took care of your tasks.
  • Focusing your mind on the most enjoyable aspects of your job.

If these tips don’t help, it could be time to look for a new opportunity.

Advice for employers and managers…

The evidence is clear. All businesses need to support their employees to minimise the risk of burnout (and benefit from healthy and productive teams).

  • Keep an eye on the holiday diary. Make sure that people feel able to book breaks and help employees prep for their time off.
  • Reading the above tips will help.
  • As will booking one or more temps to provide cover support. This is especially essential for small and/or highly busy teams where nobody else is available to receive additional tasks.

Please call the office on 01225 313130 to book a temp or email us for support.