By Daniel Hunter

We take annual leave with the intention of relaxing, unwinding and recharging the batteries but according to a survey published today (Friday) by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), holidays aren’t as relaxing as workers would hope.

The survey of over 1,200 managers found that over half (54%) feel compelled to work while on annual leave, with over seven in 10 (71%) reading and responding to emails, nearly a third (31%) taking phone calls and one in 10 interrupting their holiday to go into the office.

Worries over mounting workload were revealed as the biggest barrier to rest and relaxation. The poll exposed that 71% of managers feel extra stress in the run up to a holiday, with the majority (63%) having to work late to clear their desks before heading on leave. In total, 17% return from holiday more stressed than when they left, with one in eight (13%) even questioning whether taking holiday is ‘worth it’.

With modern technology meaning workers are contactable anytime and anywhere, an overwhelming 80% of managers reported that they check their Blackberries or smartphone on holiday, with a third (33%) checking in every day.

“Our survey paints a picture of an over-stressed workforce. It is particularly worrying to see that such a large proportion of managers approach their holidays with a sense of trepidation and feel compelled to work when on annual leave," Charles Elvin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management, said.

“Stress can take its toll — not only on individuals’ wellbeing, but also on the productivity of the wider team and organisation. It is so important that people are able to make the most of their time off work to fully relax, reflect and unwind, so they can return to the office with renewed energy, fresh ideas and perspective.

“Organisations can increase positivity and performance by encouraging staff to plan for their leave, hand over their responsibilities, and ensure they switch off and recharge — both themselves and their Blackberries.”

On a more positive note, the survey found that the top three benefits of taking a holiday are: to remove oneself from everyday life (67%), to relax (65%) and to recharge the batteries (57%). Yet, over two fifths (42%) of respondents revealed it takes them up to six days to fully relax on holiday and 41% of managers say they need to encourage their team members to take annual leave.

The survey also reveals that holidays can be a time when people start to re-think their career paths. Almost a third of managers (30%) had thought about changing or leaving their job while on holiday and, of those, 38% had actually moved jobs as a result.

And, with the UK basking in high temperatures this July, the survey also found that almost three in ten (28%) workers struggle to decide what to wear in the summer, with more than one in ten (11%) thinking their company isn’t reasonable about what is deemed acceptable attire during hot weather. When asked what type of clothing they felt was inappropriate in the workplace, managers said that:

Men should not wear the following:

- Vest (81%)
- Flip-flops (76%)
- Baseball cap or hat (71%)
- Shorts (63%)
- Hawaiian shirt (63%)

Whilst women should avoid:

- Shorts/hot pants (74%)
- Strapless top (70%)
- Low-cut top (70%)
- Flip-flops (68%)
- Sarong (65%)

In a tale of two sexes, male managers appear more tolerant of their female colleagues wearing sarongs and strapless tops, with only 51% of male managers saying that sarongs are inappropriate (compared with 78% of female managers) and 42% saying strapless tops were unsuitable (compared with 80% female managers).

“As temperatures rise, many employees opt to dress more informally in their desire to cool down. Every workplace is different and some are a lot more relaxed than others but to avoid people dressing down too radically, organisations should set clear guidelines on what is appropriate for summer office attire," Charles Elvin concluded.

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