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. 



No time for a holiday?

Are you one of the many Brits that’s too overloaded at work to use your holiday entitlement this year? Or perhaps there’s another reason you won’t be booking much time off?

This is something of an annual issue. 44% of British professionals opted not to use their full holiday allowance in 2018 – and almost 1/4 (23%) had 6 or more unused days by the end of the year.

What’s more, a new national survey suggests 54% of people won’t benefit from their full entitlement this year either. So, why are so many employees reluctant to book a break from work?

Why many Brits aren’t using all their holiday allowance…

  • 1/4 of people report that they ‘feel guilty’ to use their contractual allowance, blaming their employer’s culture for this. In addition, respondents identified some more specific reasons that could be at the root of their reluctance…
  • Top of the list was being ‘too busy’ to book time off (38%), followed by:
  • Having ‘nowhere to go’ (23%)
  • Not needing as much allowance (19%)
  • Enjoying their job too much (8%)
  • A disapproving boss (7%)
  • And ‘peer pressure from colleagues’ (5%).

The article also explores some related issues. From the prevalence of unpaid overtime to being contacted by work while on leave.

But science says you need a holiday!

Research conducted on men found that those who took shorter holidays generally ‘worked more and slept less’. The post argues that this is perpetuating stress issues and the risk of burnout.

We’re assuming these findings would also apply to female employees, who last year missed out on even more paid leave than their male counterparts.

Perhaps it’s time to review your work-life balance and whether you’re happy with your current lifestyle. If you’re not, there may be better options for you.

Employers and managers should also look to create a culture that encourages everyone to use their holiday entitlement. Booking a temp to cover annual leave needs is a great place to start. Call us on 01225 313130 to discuss how this could work for your business.



The best work-life balance jobs (+ salary details!)

Exploring which jobs have the best work-life balance scores – and whether you’ll have to pick between your lifestyle or your salary…

As each Monday rolls around, you may find yourself wishing your weeks featured less work and more leisure. It’s a common wish and one that often appears to involve a level of financial sacrifice.

After all (and as Recruiting Times reports), this choice often entails a shorter working week and/or part-time hours, which often spells reduced pay.

Well, the latest research by Glassdoor has identified the 15 best roles for work-life balance, with 13 of these meeting or exceeding the national salary average.

The top 10 work-life balance jobs are…

Please note: the brackets indicate the standard national base salary for each role.

  1. Sales Development Representative (£27,000)
  2. Research fellow (£34,000)
  3. Customer Success Manager (£40,000)
  4. Marketing Assistant (£20,000)
  5. Engagement Manager (£48,000)
  6. Data Scientist (£46,000)
  7. Recruiter (£25,000)
  8. Copywriter (£29,000)
  9. Web Developer (£31,000)
  10. Audit Manager (£52,000)

The complete job list and associated ratings can be found in the original post.

Using these findings…

We agree with the positive sentiments expressed in the piece. These findings show that you don’t always have to sacrifice your salary level in order to achieve a more favourable working lifestyle.

What’s more, as Glassdoor suggests, the vast majority of the roles listed can be found in a variety of working sectors and industries.

As ever, we encourage you to do your research to gain more of an understanding of what’s realistic for you to achieve locally. Regularly visiting our jobs page will allow you to see the salaries offered in a variety of different roles.

Your career choices are also highly individual. One person’s ideal work-life balance may be quite different from another’s. Plus what suits you at one point in your career can change with time. Where possible, seek to understand what matters to you…and let your recruitment consultant know your job search priorities!



A work stress & health special

Reviewing the latest news on work stress and mental health – including some tips to improve yours.

Understanding the research findings can help you make changes to benefit your working life, alongside the lives of those you manage… 

Work stress: who’s feeling it most?

  • Professionals aged 35-44 represent the most stressed employee group, with more than a 1/4 experiencing daily stress. ‘Work, family and children’ are the primary triggers for this age group.
  • HR appears to be the most stressed profession, with 78% of people reporting daily stress.
  • The article also cites the core stressors for the 16 to 24-year-olds and over-55s, alongside other stressed out professions, the effects of this stress, and relaxation strategies.

British adults aren’t sleeping enough

  • One clear stress-relieving strategy is that of obtaining enough sleep on a regular basis. Something that the average British worker fails to do.
  • It doesn’t help that 28% of respondents are kept awake due to the stress caused by their working day.

Poor managers cause a surge in stress-related absence

  • Research suggests that managers require additional training in order to ‘better support staff wellbeing’.
  • 37% of employers have observed higher levels of stress-related absence within the past 12 months – this has been attributed to ‘heavy workloads and poor management’.

Why even gym-goers live sedentary working lifestyles

  • Our sedentary working lives increase the risk of major health issues, including ‘Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.’
  • Being ‘extremely active’ for a short spell in your day, such as a 60-minute gym workout, does not override this risk.
  • Professionals are encouraged to get up every 30 minutes in order to do a ‘short burst of exercise’ such as a 2-minute walk.

Hot desking increases work stress

Managers are missing mental health problems

  • Research from Mind (the leading mental health charity) shows a need for managers to learn ‘how to spot and support colleagues who might be struggling with issues like stress, anxiety or depression‘.
  • More than 7 in 10 employees have encountered a mental health problem at some stage of their life. What’s more, over 1/2 of staff members are experiencing mental health issues right now.

Young professionals believe their commute harms their health

  • More than 2/5 of workers think their commute worsens their stress. However, this figure increases to almost 3/4 (73%) of 25 to 34-year-olds.
  • Despite this, younger employees are additionally most willing to undertake a longer commute in order to obtain a ‘nicer property’.

Let’s look at some positives…

Again, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the volume of work stress headlines, we can all use these findings to our advantage.

We can each look at those factors we have some control over. Whether it’s finding ways to get more sleep, move more during the working day, or reassess our commute. Employers and managers can also look at additional training to improve their understanding of their colleagues’ needs – and how to support them.

In addition, we’ve found a couple of promising headlines…

An extra tip to reduce your work stress

  • Harvard researchers have found one way to turn that commute around and reduce your daily stress levels.
  • Instead of using this time to engage in relaxing pursuits, they suggest commuters should “go through your plan for the day (visualise it), set your goals and priorities, and review the three most important tasks to accomplish.” Participants that achieve this report greater job satisfaction.

Is this the future of workplace health?

  • Perhaps you feel you’re more prone to stress than your colleagues. Well, personalised healthcare could help you identify your genetic challenges.
  • Discovering whether you’re more prone to stress and/or high blood pressure, or whether you’re likely to be triggered by your caffeine intake, could be a major boost to your stress reduction tactics. Could this really contribute towards the future of ‘healthy businesses?’

Of course, we can all reach that point where our work stress largely comes from the need to find a new challenge or fresh environment! You’ll find all the latest jobs listed here.



Is a 4-day week the future norm?

Could a 4-day week become the new ‘norm’ for employees and help solve the nation’s working challenges? This is the core theme of multiple HR and recruitment news features published within the past fortnight.

Living in the overtime capital

The UK has sadly earned itself the moniker of ‘unpaid overtime capital of Europe.’ The average full-time employee now works around 6.3 hours of unpaid overtime weekly. This amounts to £5,000 per person each year, according to ADP research data.

You could assume this means we’re flying ahead in the productivity stakes, however, the opposite is true. What’s more, our culture of overwork could actually be at the root of this problem.

  • It’s said that the Danes are ‘23.5% more productive per hour,’ despite the fact they work 4 hours less each week.
  • The Republic of Ireland is also 62.7% more productive, yet works less than 40 hours per week. The UK averages 42 hours.
  • Apparently, if changes aren’t made, ‘it would take 63 yearsfor UK employees to receive the same amount of leisure time as the rest of Europe.

Employees call for a 4-day week

Alongside the productivity issues, UK professionals are also feeling increasingly stressed. More than 1 in 3 people feel more stressed than they did just two years ago. The respondents suggest this is due to:

  • Increased workloads (66%)
  • ‘Changing relationships’ at work (30%)
  • Not having control over their work (27%)

On being asked what would help lower their stress levels, the participants said:

  1. A 4-day working week (Almost 1/3: 30%)
  2. Greater management support (25%)
  3. Reduced responsibilities, or other work changes (13%)
  4. Stress management training (6%)
  5. Regular exercise (5%)
  6. Not receiving work emails outside of their contracted hours (5%)

Various views on the 4-day week

It’s suggested that technological advances should make a 4-day working week feasible. Yet some employers and employees have their concerns…

  • Businesses worry about paying the same salaries for reduced workloads and professionals fear that they’ll end up working fewer days yet even longer hours. Others worry that they’ll have to squeeze their existing workloads into a briefer timeframe.
  • Several examples are provided in the above-linked piece. One of which is a Surrey-based trial in which employees will work an extra hour a day in order to shorten their working week to four days/32 hours for full-timers. The workers’ stress levels will be compared at the end of it. It will be interesting to see whether the longer days/shorter weeks outweigh the associated concerns.
  • One German-company has taken a different approach: reducing each working day from eight hours to five. They say this has resulted in reduced stress and improved work-life balance. They have, however, had to implement some practical changes to help employees manage their workloads. This included reevaluating ‘social media usage and finding weekly routines’.

In conclusion…

While it doesn’t appear that 4-day working weeks will become the imminent norm, don’t be surprised if you see more UK employers experimenting with this notion. In the meantime, are there any jobs that more closely match your working priorities? For example, those with reduced commutes or more favourable hours or shifts, flexible working opportunities and other lifestyle benefits.

We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for future updates regarding this topic/how the Surrey study turns out! As well as sharing such updates via our news feed, you can also follow us over on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.



The average weekday morning routine

What does your weekday morning routine look like? If it features alarm snoozing, multiple cups of tea, and a few cross words (unsurprisingly that’s angry words rather than puzzles!), you’re very much in line with the average Brit…

As a nation, each workday morning we:

  • Snooze our alarms five times
  • Consume two teas
  • Swear four times before 9 o’clock
  • Have at least two rounds of ‘cross words’ with our partners
  • And break up two or more fights between our children
  • We also hunt for both our mobile phones and keys twice over before leaving the house

This is all according to research conducted by Dunelm. You can compare your morning against the rest of the nation’s data in this recent HR News post.

How media features in our morning routine:

The article also cites some fascinating details when it comes to how else we’re using our time. Collectively we…

  • Spend 3 million hours ‘browsing social media’ from the bed, bathroom and breakfast table.
  • Respond to 97 million emails before we’ve even got up.
  • And watch 16 million hours of morning TV.
  • Breaking this down into minutes, the average working person spends 6 minutes on checking their work emails and another 6 minutes on posting to social media from their beds. Yet we only allow 7 minutes to eat breakfast (with more than 1/4 doing this while rushing around the house). That’s also less time than spent on styling one’s hair and reading the online news.

The morning mood…

A number of potential ‘morning downers’ are identified, including missing public transport, traffic jams, arguments, and not knowing what to wear, among others.

With all the stats combined, it’s no wonder that more than 1/4 of professionals feel stressed as soon as they wake up, with 76% of people finding weekday mornings worst of all.

Are there any solutions?

Weekday mornings are always going to present their challenges, especially for anyone with additional caring responsibilities or health needs. Anything you can do to manage your stress levels is going to help improve your morning routine. Or, at least, how that routine makes you feel!

Prepping whatever you can the night before, prioritising sleep, and avoiding the lure of social media first thing in the day could be a great place to start.

Alongside this, ask yourself whether there’s anything else contributing to your morning stress load. It’s said that 97% of people are frustrated in their work. Frustration can lead to nitpicking (and an all-around shorter fuse with those around you!) as well as more of a desire to procrastinate.

If job frustration is ruining your morning routine, and the rest of your working week, why not take a look at the latest job vacancies?



Are you married to your job?

Does it feel like you’re married to your work? If so, you’re among more than a ¼ of British employees who feel this way…

Research led by Perkbox (and shared by Recruiting Times) shows that:

  • 45% of people routinely work more than an hour beyond their standard day – with weekends included.
  • Almost ¼ have cancelled a personal commitment, such as a date or a party, due to their work.
  • 1 in 10 say that being married to their job has caused a relationship breakdown.
  • 30% of respondents feel “like they’re always at work, even when they’re at home”.

Technology once again bears some of the brunt of the blame. 70% of employees have received out-of-hours communications via email, text or phone call. 25% even think they send more messages to their colleagues or boss than they do their friends.

A number of health implications are additionally discussed. These findings support People Management’s report, which states that: ‘always on employees are more engaged but also more stressed.’

An overworking culture…

The Perkbox study only has 2,000 respondents. However, it closely reflects wider research. For instance, the TUC’s exploration of 5 million UK workers. This reveals that a total of £2 billion worth of unpaid overtime was undertaken in 2018.

While acknowledging that many people are prepared to work some overtime when needed, the TUC suggests that there are employers who are taking advantage of their teams. As a result, they’re calling for new rights that will make such employers more accountable.

Once again, the health impact of these working practices is discussed, alongside the reduced productivity that results from a culture of overwork.

Appearances may be deceptive!

Over on HR Magazine, a separate report explores the productivity issue in more detail. This post cites research from Maxis Global Benefits Network, which found that 79% of UK office professionals work an extra three days of overtime each month.

  • 79% of people also report to a ‘desk time’ focus, meaning that they’re ‘expected to be seen at their desks’ most of the time.
  • It may be thought this would boost productivity. Yet, conversely, many employees (almost 1/3) are spreading out their workloads to appear more productive than they truly are.

You won’t be surprised to hear that this article also finds a connection between long working hours and anxiety, stress and poor work-life balance.

So, is it time to divorce your job?!

If you’re no longer enjoying your work, or you feel it’s having a negative effect on your personal life, you may want to reconsider your options. Review the latest jobs and be sure to discuss your priorities with your recruitment consultant.



Overcoming the Sunday Scaries

Do you suffer from the Sunday Scaries? If so, you’re one of the 2/3 of Britons experiencing the same…

This term, also regularly interchanged with the ‘Sunday Blues’ and the ‘Sunday night fear,’ describes the poor mood and/or anxiety that sets in ahead of the new working week.

It’s been found that many workers lose most of their Sundays to their work-based worries. Unresolved work tasks, thoughts of horrible commutes and unpleasant colleagues currently top the list of concerns.

People are engaging in a number of numbing behaviours in response to this. Alcohol and junk food appear to be among the common distraction tools.

Why are so many people affected by the Sunday Scaries?

Unsurprisingly, poor job satisfaction levels appear to be at the root of the phenomenon. It’s stated that more than 2 million British workers actually think about leaving their jobs daily. That’s 7% of the national workforce.

Professionals are experiencing high levels of stress and feel the burden of their employer’s expectations and workloads.

The evidence also shows that many people are working weekends and when they should be on leave.

How to overcome the Sunday Scaries…

Learn to recognise what’s under your control. If there’s something you can change – such as planning more enjoyable activities for your weekend – then do what you can to change it!

The same applies to anything under your control at work. Can you speak with someone about your workload, is there another method of travel you can use, is there anything you can do to improve your workplace relationships?

On a personal note, make sure you’re supporting your physical and mental health as best as you can.

Each change adds up! We hope this advice helps. If you’re ready for a fresh start, our Jobs page is the place to begin! Meanwhile, let us know how you overcome your Sunday anxiety over on Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn



Workplace wellbeing: 4 ways to improve yours

How to improve your workplace wellbeing – whether you’re an employer, manager or employee…

There are multiple motivations for companies to increase their workplace wellbeing efforts. For many company owners, the productivity benefits will be of paramount importance. Yet it also provides yet another competitive advantage at a time when great job-seeking candidates prove more challenging to find!

Of course, if you’re reading this from an individual perspective you’ll need little convincing as to why it would be helpful for you to feel less stressed, more supported, and all-around healthier throughout your working weeks. With this in mind, let’s look at…

4 ways to increase your workplace wellbeing, according to recent news reports:

1. Use your lunch breaks!

Source: HR News

This topic crops up time and time again, which is why it’s less of a surprise to hear that British workers are giving up 19 million hours worth of lunch breaks per day!

10% of professionals are grabbing lunch at their desk on a daily basis and 22% will give themselves less than 10 minutes for lunch.

However, legally, all employees working more than six hours a day should receive 20-minutes of uninterrupted lunch-break. Lunch breaks also provide all sorts of health boosts – from lifting your mood to reducing stress and increasing your concentration.

  • Managers/employers: here’s yet another message to make sure all bosses are honouring this right! If you know your employees are regularly skipping their breaks, you need to act fast.
  • Employees: take your breaks! If there’s a major reason you don’t feel that you can, you should discuss this with your manager or HR contact.

2. Move more often.

Source: HR Review

81% of British office professionals spend somewhere between four and nine hours a day sitting at their desks. This tots up to 67 days per person annually!

Alongside this, few people feel comfortable in the chairs provided and many report daily aches as a result. Although, legally businesses must conduct regular ‘workstation risk assessments’.

Research conducted with ergonomic equipment and sit-stand desks across a four-week period led to increased workplace wellbeing, higher comfort and greater energy levels.

  • Managers/employers: let this be a nudge to conduct those risk assessments and find out how your team is feeling. Explore better desk and chair options. Encourage everyone to take short breaks to get up and move around.
  • Employees: we should all aim to stand up and move at least every half an hour. Even if that’s just to pop up and down a flight of stairs, take something over to a colleague, head to the loo or put the kettle on.

3. Introduce or become a Mental Health First Aider

Source: The Telegraph

About 1 in 6 of us will experience a mental health problem at work at some stage. Full-time working females are twice as likely to encounter something of this nature. That’s a lot of the working population and may contribute up to 12.7% of national sickness absence.

Younger workers can also experience additional challenges, including exam anxiety and social media pressures alongside workplace isolation.

  • Managers/employers: why not introduce a mental health first aid person or team, dependent on the size of your business? Visit Mental Health First Aid England or St. John’s Ambulance for training details and advice.
  • Employees: you could volunteer to be a mental health first aider at work. Share some of the research behind this, alongside some of the training course details and see whether this is of interest to your employer. Here’s a recent advice piece we shared on LinkedIn for workers experiencing anxiety or depression.

4. Watch your environment

Source: HR News

64% of HR professionals believe a poor workplace environment can have a ‘substantial’ impact on employee sickness rates.

Naturally, absenteeism is of national concern as it now amounts to a cost of £18 billion a year. Think it’s always been the case? Well, 59% of people now take more sick leave than they used to a decade ago.

A more positive workplace setting is believed to provide encouragement and a sense of purpose. Great news for workplace wellbeing levels!

  • Managers/employers: this may take a spot of anonymous surveying, but it’s important to find out how your team perceives your workplace. You should also watch out for any hints of staff bullying, chronic negativity and/or low spirits. Also monitor your own actions to make certain you’re leading in a positive manner.
  • Employees: this may feel out of your control, however, you can also start with your own actions. Watch that you’re not using every chat as an opportunity to grumble, say please and thanks to your colleagues and try to respond to new ideas in an open way. Where possible, speak to a trusted manager or HR colleague if you have any concerns regarding the atmosphere for yourself or your colleagues. Of course, sometimes a fresh environment is also the best solution!

Further reading:

Managers looking to do more to increase their workplace wellbeing rates may also be interested to read:

  1. The real reason employees are calling in sick via HR News.
  2. Job insecurities are hurting your employees on People Management.