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More Than A Third Of Employees Failed To Switch Off And Worked Through Their Christmas Holiday

Published 19 December 2016

Christmas should have been a time when employees switched off to enjoy a well-deserved break, but it seems many could not resist the urge to work through the festive period.

Whether there is an expectation from employers that staff will keep an eye on work at all times, or workers feel pressured to do so, taking work home - and away on holiday – appears to be on the increase.

A study has revealed that one in three (36%) workers surveyed said they would continue to check work emails over the Christmas break; with those aged between 18 and 34 admitting they were most likely to do so (49%) (1).

The research carried out by Lee Hecht Harrison Penna quizzed two thousand full time workers in the UK.

Technology means work can be at an employee’s fingertips during the evenings, weekend and even while on holiday.

Some workers may believe that by simply reading emails and not responding to them that they are not actually working, but what it really does show is that they have not fully switched off from the workplace.

The Trade Union Congress says the number of people working excessive hours has risen by 15 per cent since 2010 with 3.4m employees now doing more than a 48hr week – up by 453,000 (2).

Workers putting in unpaid hours and failing to disconnect from work outside of office hours is a growing problem. It can have a detrimental impact on an employee’s health and well-being causing stress, depression and anxiety and lead to burnout.

The latest estimate from the Labour Force Survey for 2015/2016 shows that 11.7m working days were lost due to stress, anxiety and depression (3).

France has now introduced a new employment law requiring organisations with more than 50 workers to start negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones (4).

It will give employees flexibility and allow them to disconnect from work and address a practice that results in workers doing unpaid overtime.

While there is no such law in the UK organisations can still do their bit to help. Employers can encourage employees to relax outside of work, and especially while on holiday as returning to work refreshed after a break can boost productivity.


1. Many employees will work through Christmas [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 26]. Available from:

2. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 15 per cent increase in people working more than 48 hours a week risks a return to “Burnout Britain”, warns TUC [Internet]. TUC. 2015 [cited 2017 Jan 26]. Available from:

3. Statistics - Work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain (GB) [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 26]. Available from:

4. France-Presse A. French win “right to disconnect” from out-of-hours work emails [Internet]. The Telegraph. 12:13 [cited 2017 Jan 26]. Available from:


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