The Christmas holidays are considered a time to unwind and spend time with loved ones, but for many UK employees, the holidays could be less relaxing than hoped. The reason: our new Festive Season Survey with YouGov of over 2,000 UK office workers reveals a worrying disconnect between bosses and employees on work expectations during the holiday period.
The majority (83%) of UK bosses with leadership responsibilities say they will encourage their employees to switch off during the holiday season. Yet 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.
This pressure is impacting key festive days, with almost 2 in 5 (36%) employees who are available for work planning to 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.
Work pressure comes from employees themselves
Thirty-eight percent of bosses note that there’s no day over the holiday period when they expect employees to check in with work—whether that’s looking at messages and emails or providing an update.
“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.”
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 fifty percent 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 coworkers, with fifty-one percent of bosses revealing this worry and fifty-four of employees.
Helping employees 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.
The mobility super-app Bolt is an example of a company doing this well. “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," notes Kerstin Rothermel, VP of People at Bolt.
We advise employees to block margin times in their work calendars and explicitly encourage them not to work on holidays or during vacation.”
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 that technology has a role to play here.
Seventy-two percent of employees believe having good digital infrastructure makes it easier to show managers, coworkers 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.
“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.”
Notifications and statuses help with the majority (65%) of employees planning 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.
“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.”
About the survey: The Festive Season Survey was conducted on behalf of Slack by market research firm YouGov. The survey is based on online interviews with 2,001 office workers in the UK in the period from 17.11.2022 to 24.11.2022.
Office workers refers to all respondents surveyed.
Bosses refers to senior management, director and C-level respondents.
Employees refers to middle management, junior management and non-managerial roles.