According to all the predictions about the future we saw while growing up, one thing that definitely should have happened by now is that we would spend less time at work and more at our leisure. Machines should have freed us from the endless hours of drudgery to spend more time doing what we want to do. What has transpired however is the exact opposite. The machines have allowed work to follow us around so that we spend more time than ever before working, often without realising that is what we are doing. Checking emails over a coffee, on the weekend or just before bed is seen as the norm. We do it even when our employers don’t demand it.
We often don’t even take proper holidays anymore. A recent survey revealed that nearly nine out of ten British workers now fail to take all of their holiday allowance each year, with almost one in 200 missing out on more than ten days of paid leave. In some cases, that meant workers missing out on as much as £675 of annual leave, according to the research from Voucherbox.
Meanwhile, a survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos has revealed that the practice of working outside standard contracted hours is so ingrained in working culture that a majority of full-time salaried employees in the US would work off-the-clock even if it was against company policy. 81 percent of US salaried employees report that they conduct work outside of their standard hours.
The Voucherbox study, which looked at British workers’ annual leave entitlement, found that 43 percent don’t take their full allowance because they are simply too busy to do so and that over half are entitled to more than 25 days of paid holiday per working year, with 7 percent reaching the end of the year with at least half their allowance untaken.
The ubiquity of mobile phones is the primary reason employees simply can’t unplug, and the adoption of text messaging for business has become commonplace. More than half of all employees (55 percent) who conduct work outside of standard work hours blamed checking and / or sending work email, according to Kronos.
We do this in spite of the fact we know it’s not good for us. According to a new study from the Institute of Leadership & Management, the majority of people already know that the best thing they can do to enjoy a proper break is disconnect from technology, although whether they act on this knowledge appears to be a different matter. The ILM reports that 56 percent of managers say taking a holiday in a remote location without wi-fi connection would leave them feeling relieved.
But it’s getting harder and harder for us to ‘switch off’ from work once we are away, with managers craving holidays in remote corners of the world where they can escape the ‘always on’ connectivity culture. Most managers don’t take proper breaks from work on holiday, with 37 percent admitting to checking their work emails every day of their holiday to avoid a backlog of work when they return to work.
There has been a great deal of talk recently about offering workers the right to switch off as a way of increasing their wellbeing. It has been trialled at firms in various countries and in December of last year was enshrined as a right in French Law. But the truth is we all have the right to switch off, we just choose not to apply it as often as we should. The best thing we can do sometimes, especially on holiday, is reach for the off switch.