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. 



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.