Opinion

Do your employees 'switch off' on their summer holidays?

5 min read

29 July 2019

Business owners and employees alike are working from their sunbeds aided by the connectivity of technology. But is this down to diligence – or distrust of other colleagues?

With the country baking in glorious hot weather, it shouldn’t be surprising that employees are distracted from their duties at work by the lure of the swimming pool and the sunbed.

However, it appears that even when they swap their workwear for beachwear, they aren’t switching off from their business responsibilities – and are working while on holiday.

According to a survey I came across last week, three in ten SME employees will work at least one day during their summer holidays.

Employees are working from their sunbeds (as much as business owners)

I have written for Real Business in the past about how tough it is for business owners and entrepreneurs to switch off when they go on holiday; after all, the business is their baby and they care and worry about it in equal measure.

But when it comes to employees, there is a long-standing preconception that from the moment they leave the premises at the start of their holiday their work and their responsibilities go out the window. But if the below research is anything to go by, it’s simply not true:

A recent online survey of 1000 employees working in UK small firms (by TLF Research for Process Bliss), says that 67% of those questioned said they would work at some stage while on their summer holidays.

Technology keeps us all connected ALL the time…

There will be lots of reasons why working on holiday happens. But I’d reckon that technology plays a big part. Before smartphones, emails could only be checked at desktop computers. Today, workers on holiday now have the ability to log into work systems from a remote computer.

The time in and out of work has become more fluid as technology has provided the opportunity to contact clients, suppliers and colleagues at the touch of a screen at any time of the day.

While this can be great for productivity and delivering great service to customers, it has become an expectation. This is revealed in this survey as 45% of SME employees say their clients expect them to be available during the summer holidays.

What tasks are vacationing employees doing?

This is perpetuated by employees checking their emails during holidays, 67% according to the survey, while 34 % call the office for updates and 28% have direct contact with customers or suppliers.

You can’t ignore the conscientious nature of these workers. But I believe that clients and customers should accept that someone is on holiday and, even if the employee is responding to emails, they should be able to pass on the enquiry to a colleague that’s in the office.

Working on holiday is not always about diligence, it’s about peer distrust

Work on holiday

Employees might be working on holiday due to peer-based distrust.

Based on this research, it appears that working while on holiday, for some employees, isn’t about their commitment to the business. 16% of those polled said they worked because they don’t trust colleagues to keep on top of everything. While 13% think they are the only one that can do their job!

That should never, ever be the case and it’s vital that any role that involves ongoing jobs or projects to be picked up should be shared amongst a team of people. This can even come in the form of some sort of ‘holiday handover’ to office-based colleagues to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Nobody should have to work during their holidays, even if they have the misguided belief that the business will crumble without their continued input.

Holidays are sacred and shouldn’t be encroached by others unless in extreme circumstances. At Pimlico, our workforce gives us their total commitment for 48-weeks or so of the year – and they need the time to relax. It’s essential for both their physical and mental health.

So, send your people off on holiday this summer with this simple message: turn off your emails, we will be here when you get back!