Working on holiday: Important or harmful?

When you’ve planned a relaxing holiday filled with sun, sea and sand, the last thing you want is to check work emails on the beach. However, in a modern world filled with technology that keeps us connected wherever we go, is it feasible to be working?

More to the point, is working on holiday important or can it be harmful? After all, the whole point of it is to relax and get away from it all, so do you really want to keep in touch with the office while you’re gone?

© Riccardo Piccinini /

Should you enjoy your rest, or should you pack your work laptop with the sun cream and flip flops?

Has working on holiday increased?

In the days before mobile devices and the internet, when you went on holiday, you could almost disappear for the duration.

Today, 66% of employees have worked on holiday. In fact, 78% of them feel “comfortable” knowing they can access work while away. They feel more stressed at the prospect of returning to the office if they haven’t had contact – what if something has gone wrong? Key decision makers and self-employed people believe they can’t switch off altogether, as no one else can manage the business in their absence.

Analysts have suggested some people are reluctant to take holidays because they fear their job will be at risk if the office ticks over efficiently without them. They try to show they’re indispensable. However, it should be possible even for key players to take one- or two-weeks’ annual leave by drawing up workable plans to cover their absence.

Pros and cons of working on holiday

Whether you’re trying to prove how dedicated you are or fear a mess will await on your return, working on holiday can be a problem, according to the experts. The stress of remaining locked into your mobile devices when away can be unhealthy.

Stress in the workplace can lead to anxiety and mental health issues like depression, so taking a break is really important – you must rest from daily pressures.

If you feel you must be in contact with the office while on holiday, it suggests a potentially toxic work culture, where no boundaries have been set on the demands of the company. Okay, you might keep up to date with what’s happening in the workplace, possibly saving a very small amount of time when you return, but at what cost is this achieved?

Even working for just an hour a day from your holiday destination can reduce your happy memories by almost half, research has revealed.

Employees usually take cues from senior members of staff, so if they are generally contactable while they are away, everyone else feels they should follow this lead. However, while some might think it’s okay to pick up a couple of work emails each day, experts say it is NEVER acceptable to get involved in a conference call.

Can you be forced to work while on annual leave?

No one in the UK can be forced to work while on annual leave. All employees are legally entitled to take 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year. The total amount depends on how many hours or days the person usually works. They can take a maximum of 28 days’ paid leave.

The choice of whether to work is yours. It’s not something you should do lightly, as once you’ve made yourself available, you’re setting a precedent for the future.

You need to consider whether you actually need to work while you’re on leave, or whether it can wait ‘til you return. Why are you considering working on holiday? Are you comfortable with the practice, or do you feel a little pressured into it?

What boundaries will you set to avoid daily phone calls from the office? How much work will you realistically be able to do from the poolside and will it be of a high quality if your mind isn’t fully on the job?

Many experts agree our holiday isn’t really the right setting for completing work. In the majority of cases, it’s preferable to postpone it until you get back. Never let it take over, so you end up feeling stressed.

In an ideal world, nobody should work on holiday. However, if you’re a senior manager, or key decision maker, sadly, you may have to leave your work mobile switched on, in case an urgent situation arises in your absence.

How to reduce working on holiday

If it’s vital that you retain a link with the office while you’re away, keep working to a minimum by careful planning.

First, organise your workload before you leave the office to help reduce the pressure on your return. Hold a meeting with key colleagues to ensure a smooth handover of your projects in your absence. You don’t ever want to take a meeting remotely while you’re on holiday, so organise catch-up meetings for when you return to work too.

As a manager, you should do your utmost not to contact any employees while they’re on holiday. It can create an unhealthy culture where staff feel they can never escape. This can lead to resentment over time.

Unfortunately, in rare circumstances, managers may feel they have no choice other than to contact employees on holiday. For example, an employee may be the only person with a particular password, or with the knowledge to answer an urgent question about a project. Aim to keep contact to a minimum unless it’s truly urgent.

If you’re planning a holiday, meeting room hire in London could be a solution to help organise an efficient handover. Take time out from the hectic workplace by inviting key colleagues to an external venue, where you won’t be disturbed by phone calls and people popping in unannounced.

Using a meeting room in London is a professional way of setting boundaries, as it emphasises the fact you’re going on holiday and that this is your final get-together for a week or two.

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