As many of us prepare to take some well-earned time away from the office this summer, we have been pondering a subject that frequently divides opinions in the workplace (and on the beach!) : should you check your work emails whilst on annual leave?
Whilst mobile technology means that we are now better connected than ever before, it can also make it harder to switch off and take a well-deserved break from the office when on annual leave. With emails so easily accessible, it can be very hard to resist the temptation to check them – but could the sneaky poolside-inbox-check actually be a harmful habit that is adding to the stress levels of the workforce?
Recent studies have found that checking emails whilst on annual leave could impede our ability to fully relax and take a complete break from work – which is vital to combat ‘burnout’ (a state of chronic stress which can lead to exhaustion, lack of confidence, decreased productivity and apathy). Making a rule not to check emails whilst on holiday can be a highly effective method of reducing stress levels and can help to ensure that you are setting a healthy work-life balance – which is essential for productivity and maintaining mental wellbeing.
The urge to check emails is slightly stronger in men than in women: according to a study by online travel agent Travel Republic, 58% of men admitted to checking their inbox during their time off compared with 46% of women. The figures increase dramatically, however, at director level.
The subject also frequently polarises couples. A recent survey revealed that 70% of women object to their partners checking their emails whilst on holiday, whereas men are slightly more tolerant with 58% confessing that they are unhappy with their partners peeking at their inboxes.
And it’s not just the holiday inbox-checkers that could risk setting an unhealthy work/life balance by working whilst out of the office. According to a recent study, some employees are effectively cancelling out their entire annual leave allowance by using mobile devices to work outside of office hours. Many workers – by working an extra hour or two each day by remotely checking their emails – work an extra 29 days every year, negating (or even surpassing) their annual holiday entitlement.
However, many workers claim that checking their emails and keeping themselves up-to-date with the latest developments at the office helps them to relax more effectively during their downtime. By deleting or filing emails as they appear, some workers find that they can save themselves the stress of a crowded inbox and are forewarned of the matters that will need their attention upon their return to the office. Experts warn that workers who favour this approach should limit their inbox checks to no more than one hour each day: this should ensure that they are still taking enough of a break from work to enable them to relax, switch off and recharge their batteries.
Whilst both approaches have their merits, the decision to be an inbox-checker or inbox-ignorer whilst on annual leave is purely down to personal preference. Whichever camp you fall into we hope you enjoy a wonderful break from the office on your next holiday…now put that smartphone down and enjoy your time off!