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4 in 6 UK Employees Work an Average of 6.3 Unpaid Hours a Week

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The proliferation of digital devices means that we’re constantly connected to the office wherever we might be, making it difficult to switch off from work and increase stress levels even more than it should. Last year, the Office of National Statistics released figures that revealed three million UK employees work more than 48 hours a week, a rise of a quarter of a million since 2001

Whether it’s a two-week holiday or a twenty-minute respite at lunch, Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at Instant Offices explains why it is important for workers to take steps on how to live healthily by disconnecting from all work-related screens and increase productivity and overall happiness.

The Importance of a Well-Rested Employee

Although it may seem like a good thing from a productivity point of view, having employees constantly working can do your business more harm than good.

In fact, a study by Glassdoor has shown the average number of UK employees taking their full annual leave is 62% with only 43% made use of 91-100% of their holiday entitlement. What’s more 13% reported only taking 20% of their allowance.

Further research found 23% of those on holiday regularly checked their emails and 15% admitted to doing some work out of fear of being behind on their return and missing targets. 20% of employees surveyed also reported that they were expected to be reachable and available to carry out some work if needed.

Continuing to work over their holiday means that workers don’t get a chance to fully recover from the stresses of office life, and in the end, productivity and creativity can suffer when drained employees come back to work.

This is, of course, not even taking into account the health benefits of a holiday – stress and exhaustion take an incredible toll on the body, and overworked employees may end up taking more sick leave throughout the year. Finally, allowing employees time off to relax can result in an all-around boost for office morale.

Tips for a Digital Disconnect

  • Respect other people’s schedules. Don’t bother them with emails or calls when they have taken time off unless the matter is extremely urgent.
  • Prioritise your workload. If you absolutely have to work on your holiday, spend time on the important tasks only, and leave less important matters for when you are back in the office.
  • Set up an auto-reply on your email. This way, people who send you messages are alerted to the fact that you are on holiday. Provide a contact number for someone else in the office, who can be contacted if the issue is urgent.
  • Tell your colleagues that you’ll be going away. This may seem obvious, but alert others in your office that you are going on holiday. Sort out the most important projects before you leave, and let colleagues know that you will be unlikely to reply to work communications while away.
  • Avoid constantly checking your devices while on holiday. If you absolutely have to remain connected to work while on holiday, allocate a specific day, or a certain time of day when you will check and reply to emails, text messages and missed calls.

Indeed, many holiday retreats all over the world are now offering “digital detoxes”, where there is no Wi-Fi signal and visitors are encouraged to hand over their electronic devices.

Daily Work Breaks

It’s not just time off work that’s important – taking a proper lunch break every day is also beneficial.  And by “proper” lunch break, we mean moving away from your desk or your office cubicle. According to Forbes, incorporating an hour or half hour break into your daily work schedule can boost one’s energy levels, improve your mood, and provide additional morning motivation as you work towards your break.