Are holidays on hold? 64% of Brits will suffer work-related anxiety this summer break

In some countries like Portugal, there are already laws in place to guarantee the right to disconnect for employees. The UK, however, is lagging behind. Although Labour are calling for “the right to switch off” as part of their New Deal for Working People, a very timely topic with the upcoming elections, there’s still nothing set in place to safeguard UK workers’ time off.

To explore this issue, Naturecan conducted a survey of 1,250 employed UK adults via OnePoll to look into their ability to switch off from work and their working habits, identifying patterns based on age, and variations across regions.

Work worries follow Brits on days off and holidays

Even during their days off, a whopping 84% of Brits think about work at least twice a day. 

“We have become so accustomed to being contactable 24/7 that the boundaries have become blurred between our work life and our home life.  This can make it hard for us to switch off, even when we are not meant to be working.” says Georgina Sturmer, Counsellor and MBACP. 

Although holidays are meant to be relaxing and allow for unwinding, 55% still check work emails or messages at least once during a week-long holiday. Not being able to fully disconnect has a direct toll on their holidays perception as well, with 64% admitting that work-related anxiety has negatively affected what should be an enjoyable and stress-free time, and will do so again this year

Adding to the pressure is the obligation felt by 20% of Brits, who believe there’s an unspoken expectation from their managers to be available for work-related matters even while on holiday. 

7 in 10 Brits struggle to switch off after work

Many carry work-related worries and stress long after working hours. In fact, 7 in 10 employed Brits struggle to switch off after work on a regular basis. Not only do they find it difficult to clear their heads, but 55% of adults also check their work emails and messages at least once a week out of working hours, and 17% do it every day.

How often, if at all, do you typically check work emails or messages after working hours?%n
Every day17%218
A few times a week26%328
Once a week11%137
Once a fortnight4%44
Once a month or less often9%114
N/A – do not use emails/messaging as part of my job9%116

This inability to disconnect has broader implications beyond just mental fatigue. 62% of Brits report that their inability to switch off from work has prevented them from participating in post-work activities, with men being more likely than women to cancel their plans  due to work burnout. 

“When we’ve had a difficult day, it may feel like we want to preserve energy by taking a night off from hobbies and physical activity, but it can have the opposite effect. Hobbies and physical activities release the brain’s ‘happy chemicals,’ such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. These chemicals help reduce stress and boost mood, allowing us to switch off from work-related worries more effectively” says Joanna Buckland, counsellor, and founder of WellBe Link.

So what can we do? Experts share their tips to switch off

The experts Georgina Sturmer, counsellor and MBACP,  Joanna Buckland, counsellor, and founder of WellBe Link, and Niloufar Esmaeilpour, MSc, RCC and SEP from Lotus Therapy,  share some tips and best practices to properly disconnect after work, on our days off and during our holidays. 

  1. Set an “end of work” ritual

“Try to reinforce a boundary between work and home by implementing an ‘end of work’ ritual.  This might involve powering down a work laptop, taking a walk at the end of the work day, or jumping in the shower and changing our clothes.” says Georgina Sturmer.

Joanna Buckland digs deeper:

“One effective strategy is to organise your thoughts into actionable tasks that take less than 2 minutes to complete. Take a few minutes to jot down what’s on your mind. Identify what is within your control and what isn’t. For everything else, create a to-do list for the next day and note who can assist with issues beyond your control. 

This process signals to your brain that everything is under control, reducing the need for constant reminders and repetitive thoughts” 

  • Engage in hobbies and exercise

“Stressful thoughts drain our energy, lower our mood, and put our minds into overdrive, making it harder to switch off. Hobbies and physical activities release the brain’s ‘happy chemicals,’ such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. These chemicals help reduce stress and boost mood, allowing us to switch off from work-related worries more effectively” adds Buckland.

“Two things that can help to participate in such activities are:

  • Change Your Self-Talk: Your mind responds to what you tell it. Instead of thinking, “I’m too tired for this,” replace it with, “This will boost my mood and energy.” Associating activities with overall gain helps your body move from a procrastinated state to motivation.
  • Adopt Mini-Habits: On days when your energy is too low for your usual hobby or physical activity, have smaller, manageable alternatives. For example, if you can’t go for a run, take a gentle walk. If that feels too much, do a 5-minute stretch. These mini-habits keep you progressing towards your goals and prevent you from giving up altogether

By incorporating these strategies, you can better manage stress, improve your mood, and maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life” 

  • Set boundaries while away

“To protect your holidays and prevent work-related stress from permeating this time of year, you must first establish these boundaries BEFORE your holiday time begins. Notify your workmates and clients about your unavailability and assign someone else to take care of the urgent things in your place.” says Niloufar Esmaeilpour.

Georgina Sturmer adds “Our devices have become a place where work and home life really do become mixed up.  And this can mean that it can be difficult to enjoy our devices without becoming embroiled in work related stress or messages.  Some of us will gladly switch off and totally disconnect from work for our whole holiday.  Others are more likely to be able to relax if they do a quick email check each day.  This illustrates the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  Consider what will really help you to relax, and try to stick with it”. 

With summer holidays around the corner, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge the burnout problem that UK employed adults suffer, and to reflect on our own work habits. 

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