Festive fatigue | 1 in 3 workers won't switch off at Christmas - will 2023 begin with more burnout?

1 in 3 workers won't switch off at Christmas - will 2023 begin with more burnout?

A third of employees plans to make themselves available to work during their Christmas holidays despite bosses urging them to take time off - sparking concerns that workers could carry worrying burnout levels into the new year.

A study of over 2,000 UK office workers by Slack, the digital HQ for business, and YouGov, reveals a worrying disconnect between bosses and employees on work expectations during the Christmas period.

The majority (83%) of UK bosses, with leadership responsibilities, say they will encourage their employees to switch off during the holiday season.

But, despite this, a third (32%) of employees plan to be online and available to work during the holiday season - even when they have time off.

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Almost 2 in 5 (36%) employees who are available for work will check in on Christmas Eve—even though it falls on a Saturday this year. What’s more, nearly 1 in 5 (19%) plan to check their work messages on Boxing Day, and 1 in 10 (10%) will even do so on Christmas Day!

The findings are part of a new "Festive Season Survey”, exploring how the looming recession is impacting UK employees’ ability to switch off and whether they feel pressure from their bosses to be available.

Work pressure comes from employees themselves

38% of bosses note there’s no day over the holiday period where they expect employees to check in with work—whether that’s looking at messages, emails or providing an update.

However, the data indicates that employees are struggling to disconnect because of their own drive, according to 3 in 5 (53%) of those who say they are available to work despite having time off.

Expectations between employees and bosses must be clearer to avoid burnout

With a gap existing between bosses and their employees regarding work over Christmas, 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. Individuals are not just concerned about themselves burning out, but their co-workers, with 51% of bosses revealing this is a worry rising to 54% for employees.

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Helping employees to establish clear boundaries is critical, especially as almost a third (33%) of all office workers say it takes them up to three days to switch off during the holidays.

Technology has the power to set clear expectations

Worryingly, only a third (33%) of employees say their employer helps them to switch off when they have time off. Yet the study suggests technology has a role to play here.

72% of employees believe having a good digital infrastructure makes it easier to show managers, co-workers and customers that they’re on holiday and not to be disturbed. While over 3 in 5 (61%) agree it makes it easier to balance work and private life. Notifications and statuses are two reasons for this, and the majority (65%) of employees plan to switch their notifications off for the entire Christmas period, while almost half (48%) plan to use a status to set expectations about their availability to work.

Enabling employees to switch off properly is critical. Over half (55%) of employees surveyed choose to work at a company with the flexible digital infrastructure and vacation policies that allow them to work how and when they want.

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Chris Mills, Head of Customer Success, EMEA, at Slack, commented: “Technology has enabled employees to work faster and smarter in a hybrid working world, but it’s vital that employees know they can switch off during the Christmas break and are empowered to do so. A digital HQ, such as Slack, creates the right kind of digital infrastructure—one which helps foster transparent communication where bosses set clear expectations and one that enables employees to set their own boundaries for work. If technology is harnessed in the right way, it can make the difference. Features, included in tools like Slack, such as scheduled send, Do Not Disturb and custom statuses, allow workers to stay in control, enabling companies to create a healthy culture where employees can thrive in 2023 and beyond.”

Mobility super-app, Bolt, is an example of a company doing this well. Kerstin Rothermel, VP People at Bolt explains: "We advise employees to block margin times in their work calendars and explicitly encourage them not to work on holidays or during vacation. When it comes to collaboration, we rely on openness and transparency, for instance through shared documents, which allow vacation replacements to take over the respective tasks more easily and without questions. For such cases, tools like Slack are very helpful.”

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