July 15, 2024

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Two thirds of Brits have experienced ‘guilty vacation syndrome’ – is this the newest workplace epidemic?

Could this be a key trigger that’s increasing workplace ‘burnout’? If so, it might also be linked to poor management, Perkbox research suggests. 

Two thirds of working Brits have experienced ‘guilty vacation syndrome’ – the nagging urge to cancel or delay vacation due to guilt, new research commissioned by Perkbox, Europe’s fastest growing employee experience platform, has found. Might this be the reason why burnout is on the rise?

The research, which surveyed 1,342 people, found that ‘guilty vacation syndrome’, which is most frequently felt by those that most need a holiday and despite this –  feel like they shouldn’t take one, is reaching epidemic levels in the UK. To be exact, 67% of employed females and 59% of employed males have experienced it in the last year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the figures get notably worse as employees take on more senior roles and are felt by a whopping 92% of C-suite level management. People managers follow shortly after with 77% at senior level and 71% at mid-management level. This is in contrast to 60% of those at intermediate positions and 57% at entry-level positions, although these figures are still alarmingly high.

When it comes to reasons for experiencing ‘guilty vacation syndrome’ – some of the key ones  cited by those surveyed include – ‘useless co-workers’, ‘knowing you can do the job better than your co-workers’ and ‘taking holidays during a busy time for the business’ suggesting a potential link between guilty vacation syndrome and poor management. What’s more, it could be signaling a link between the rise of burnout and the increasing number of Brits taking on senior-level positions prematurely.

So what can managers do to help alleviate this syndrome sweeping across UK workplaces?

Firstly, 34% of employees agree that something as simple as creating a good handover and out of office so that people know what to do in their absence helps them feel calmer and as a result feel that they can properly switch off on vacation. Yet, one in five employees surveyed said their managers don’t lead by example, making it hard for those below them to follow.

Further solutions to reduce burnout include those which take place when actually on holiday such as removing email notifications from our phones to avoid temptation, something favoured by 27% of employees, or knowing how to delegate the long list of things left to do before leaving, preferred by 25% and very closely linked to the idea of creating a good handover.

Chieu Cao, Co-founder at Perkbox says:

“It’s clear that guilty vacation syndrome is not a fad, it’s something employees feel impacts them and is turning into a serious issue in today’s workplaces. It’s crucial to remember that holiday allowance is there for a reason, to switch off and recharge your batteries. Senior managers should lead by example on this, but to do so, they must be ready to be managers in the first place. 

What’s important is to realise that moving into management is not about managing ‘things’. Management involves managing and leading people to do their best. That often means making a fundamental shift in the way you approach work, compared to when you’re acting as the ‘best’ employee. As a manager you have to make a conscious move from valuing and trusting your own technical contribution, to valuing the contribution of others: your team.”