UK employees suffer from 'guilty vacation syndrome' adding to the rise of 'burnout'

The majority of UK employees suffer from ‘guilty vacation syndrome’ which some believe have helped lead to the rise of a ‘burnout’ feeling in the workplace.

This research was conducted by Perkbox, an employee experience platform, who describe ‘guilty vacation syndrome’ as the urge to cancel or delay a holiday due to guilt.

Perkbox believe this feeling could be linked to the rise of ‘burnout’ amongst employees. Burnout is a health hazard that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has linked to long-term, unresolved, work-related stress.

Research found that females feel more guilt as 67 per cent of women have suffered from this syndrome during the past year with 59 per cent of male employees doing the same.

These figures increased when looking at more senior roles, with 92 per cent of C-suite level management admitting to feel this way.  People managers came in second with 77 per cent and 71 per cent at mid-management level.

This goes down when looking at more junior roles but is still reasonably high in Perkbox’s opinion. With 60 per cent of those at intermediate level feeling this way and 57 per cent of entry-level positions admitting to ‘guilty vacation syndrome’.

The main reason for employees feeling ‘guilty vacation syndrome’ is because of ‘useless co-workers’ and ‘knowing you can do the job better than your co-workers’. They also do not like to take holiday at a busy time for the business, which Perkbox feels is a link between the syndrome and poor management.

Over a third of employees (34 per cent) believe creating an effective handover to their colleagues so they know what to do in their absence helps them feel calmer. Still, 20 per cent said their managers do not lead by example, which makes it hard to do this.

Removing email notifications from their phones is another idea favoured by 27 per cent.

Chieu Cao, co-founder at Perkbox said:

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.

Interested in employee wellbeing? We recommend the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum 2019.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.