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Brits under pressure to check work emails on holiday

1 August 2023

A new survey finds that the majority of British employees support the idea of a "right to switch off" law that would allow them to ignore work emails while they're on holiday.

New research, conducted by B2B services comparison website iCompario, has found that the majority of working Brits (67%) feel under pressure to check their company emails when they are on holiday. The poll of 2,000 UK employees also found that 66% of workers would support the introduction of "right to switch off" laws in the UK, similar to those already in place in France.

The research finds that it takes an average of six days for workers to completely switch off on holiday. Those who don't look at their work emails are more likely to feel they've switched off in less than 24 hours (42%); those who check their work emails several times a day are more likely to "never" feel totally relaxed during their holiday (25%). Business owners and managers were found to be most likely to check emails while they are on holiday.

It's not just holidays that are affected by the pressure to check email - 76% of working Brits also feel the need to check their company emails at least once a day when they're:

  • Off sick or are caring for unwell loved ones;
  • Attending an appointment with a doctor or dentist;
  • Off work for Christmas and other religious festivals.

The right to switch off

France brought in a "right to switch off" law in 2017, which bans employers from expecting their employees to engage in communications, such as emails, outside of work hours. The Philippines, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Slovakia, Ireland and Portugal have all followed suit since. Two-thirds (66%) of UK workers said they would support a similar law being introduced in the UK.

Dr Deborah Lee, of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, said: "Today's workers are under more stress than ever. Taking a holiday helps relieve that stress as you are removed from the workplace and have a different daily routine. Taking annual leave also leads to higher levels of life satisfaction, improved mental health and even improved physical health. After a holiday, people often find they have better job satisfaction too, and it can even increase their productivity.

"It's vital you take all the leave you are entitled to and use it appropriately to get away and de-stress - and this does not include answering work emails. Stress raises your adrenaline and cortisol levels and your blood pressure. It affects your health in so many ways, often causing insomnia and tiredness. By not answering emails you are switching off your stress response and giving your body a holiday from excess adrenal hormones."

Kerry Fawcett, digital director at iCompario, said: "These findings have highlighted the need for employers to make sure they are giving staff the freedom to be able to switch off outside of work. The pandemic changed the way many businesses operate, meaning that accessing emails and instant messages on your personal device became common place with the increase in remote working. It's important that managers work with their employees to ensure that there isn't a risk of burnout through being unable to relax after work."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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