Friday 10 February 2017 5:00 am

British workers are turning American in their attitudes to holiday

You work hard all year round. You have ups and downs, appraisals and feedback, but all in all you put the graft in at work. This is true for a lot of workers in my experience, so why are so many Britons now taking fewer breaks?

Research by has found that 40 per cent of UK workers don’t take their full holiday allocation, with supporting evidence suggesting that we don’t want to be seen away from the office.

Much of this is down to competition, and telling ourselves that: “if the boss sees me at my desk more than you, I must be contributing more.” This is a thought process which is damaging the health of our country’s workforce. We should be taking more of our holiday, not less.

Keeping pace

We all want to be the best at work and climb the ladder to promotion, but for some, this means accepting gruelling hours and checking emails all through the night.

People arrogantly believe they can programme their brain to be more efficient, but it is simply naïve to think that our brains can be operated like machines. They are not machines – they need to be engaged in rest and pleasure to properly restore, or you’ll begin to work at a lower productivity rate, whether you’re aware of it or not. Simple tasks can take longer, your attention span can become shorter, and your confidence can dip.

But when we see colleagues at their desks with hundreds of tabs open on their screen, we worry that we’re not working hard enough. We leave the office on time, and wonder why they’re staying late. We take a week off work and question whether we deserve the break. This process of constantly comparing ourselves to colleagues feeds the competition, and the competition feeds the self-doubt.

The issue is that, for many ambitious people, taking time off to ensure we are better at work sounds counter-intuitive. It’s difficult to convince others of the benefits of taking a break, and change the culture of an office. If one colleague takes the plunge, others may be less inclined to follow to show that they have comparatively higher attendance.

The research goes on to show that, even while we’re on holiday, some of us still check our emails, take calls or don’t set an out-of-office message, so other teams aren’t even aware that we’re away.

There’s a need to look like we’re always available, always on call. It’s a popular mentality in the US which has crept across the pond, but one that points to an unhealthy relationship between employer and employee. If you’re uncomfortable looking human in front of your boss, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate your priorities.


The way I’ve found workers get past this is to strengthen their sense of self-belief.

If you’re delivering results, you deserve your time off. Then, in the weeks leading up to your holiday, make sure everyone in your team is aware of your upcoming absence and delegate to colleagues accordingly. Not only will that ensure your workload will be managed while you’re on leave, it will also give those colleagues an insight into the work you’ve been doing, and prove all your hard work.

Holidays are important, and yes, so is your career. However, the main thing to remember is that the most important thing is you. There’s a reason we Brits get the holiday allocation we do, so take advantage of it and reap the rewards it brings.