A third of UK workers to stay online over holidays, following global trend

A new report from Slack highlights how workers both in the UK and across the globe struggle to switch off from work, even during the Christmas holidays.

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New research from Slack has found a disconnect between bosses and employees regarding work expectations during the Christmas period, with a third of workers stating they plan to be online and available to work during the holiday season, despite the majority of UK employers encouraging their employees to switch off.

The Slack Holiday Season Survey, comprises responses from more than 2,000 UK office workers surveyed by market research firm YouGov on behalf of Slack, also found that 36% of employees who are available for work will check in on Christmas Eve—even though it falls on a Saturday this year. Furthermore, 19% said they plan to check their work messages on Boxing Day, while 10% will do so on Christmas Day.

With a gap existing between bosses and their employees regarding work over Christmas, it appears that expectations must be clearer. In fact, half (49%) of employees—as well as 50% of bosses—worry that the pressure to be constantly available for work will lead to burnout. Amongst those surveyed by YouGov, 54% are concerned about themselves or their co-workers burning out, with this figure sitting at 51% for bosses.

However, it’s not just a mismatch of expectations—53% of those who say they are available to work despite having time off indicated they struggle to disconnect because of their own drive, with 33% of respondents saying it takes them up to three days to switch off during the holidays.

For those who are making a concerted effort to switch off, 72% of respondents believed that having good digital infrastructure makes it easier to show managers, colleagues and customers that they’re on holiday and should not be disturbed. Additionally, 61% agree having the right technology in place makes it easier to balance work and private life, with 65% of employees planning to switch their notifications off for the entire Christmas period, and 48% planning to use a status to set expectations about their availability to work.

When asked about their working preferences, 55% of employees surveyed said they would choose to work at a company that offered flexible digital infrastructure and vacation policies, allowing them to work how and when they want.

Struggling to switch off is a global trend

Unsurprisingly, many of the trends highlighted by Slack’s report were not confined to the UK. A similar study of more than 2,000 hybrid and in-office workers remote in the US found that 60% of employees plan to leave work notifications on during the holidays.

The percentage of workers in the US who said it takes them up to three days to switch off was higher than in the UK, 40% and 33% respectively, while 52% of US employees surveyed said they feel stressed and pressured by the expectation to be constantly available for work. Even among respondents who say they are not available for work during the holidays, 43% said they take a look at their work-related messages at least once a day, if not more.

In Germany, workers appear to be better at managing their work/life balance during the holidays, with 71% of employees who will not be available for work during the holidays, saying they do not check work-related messages at all, with only 30% of respondents saying they’ll leave work notifications on. And, as in the trend in the UK and US, 77% of German workers say their internal drive is a motivating factor to be available for work during the holidays, only 48% say they’ll be available during their holidays because their manager expects them to be.

In comments published alongside the report, Ana Martinez, director of engineering at Slack said that if managers are truly concerned about their workers suffering from burnout and not being able to switch off over the holidays, they need to lead by example.

“One of the most important things employers can do is model work-life balance and healthy approaches to PTO for their employees. When we respond to messages during PTO we are, whether we like it or not, sending a message that we expect the same from our employees,” she said.

Martinez adds that if a manager catches employees responding to messages during PTO, they should call it out in a respectful and playful way.

“This will send the message, not only to the individual but to the team, that the behavior is heavily discouraged,” she said.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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