A recent poll conducted by Ceridian in the US, UK, and Canada has revealed that less than half of employees are able to completely disconnect from work while on holiday.

The survey explored the impact of virtual work on employees’ ability to take holidays and their ability to truly unwind during their time off.

According to the survey results, 74 percent of employees who work remotely at least some of the time stated that virtual work has made it easier for them to take a holiday. The positive effect was particularly pronounced among respondents from the US, with 84 percent reporting increased ease in taking time off compared to 70 percent in the UK and 69 percent in Canada.

The ability to work remotely has also transformed the way people plan and enjoy their holidays. Over a third of respondents (35%) stated that it provided them with more flexibility to schedule travel, enabling them to secure cheaper transportation and accommodations or avoid busy travel days. Additionally, 33 percent mentioned that remote work made it easier to coordinate holiday schedules with colleagues since physical presence in the office was not a requirement. Furthermore, 23 percent of respondents reported that working remotely allowed them to travel for longer durations, and 22 percent said it opened up the possibility of exploring more distant destinations.

The survey underscored the significance of taking time off, as 94 percent of respondents recognized the benefits of vacations. Three-quarters of participants (75%) acknowledged the positive impact on their mental health, while nearly half (49%) believed it improved their physical well-being. Moreover, taking a holiday was linked to enhanced productivity upon returning to work (46%) and increased job satisfaction (40%).

Employees find it hard to disconnect

Despite the advantages offered by remote work, the survey highlighted a potential downside: less than half of the respondents (47%) were able to completely disconnect from work while on vacation. The numbers were even lower for US workers, with only 41 percent reporting full disconnection, compared to 51 percent for UK workers and 50 percent for Canadians. Failing to detach from work during time off can have adverse effects on employee burnout levels.

To address this issue, managers and HR leaders are encouraged to clearly communicate expectations to employees. While mandating time off may backfire, making it known that taking a holiday is encouraged and assuring employees that urgent matters will be communicated directly to them can foster a healthy work-life balance. Additionally, utilisng workforce management software can help monitor employees’ holiday time and enable HR leaders to identify potential issues before burnout becomes a problem.

However, this summer poses challenges for holiday plans due to the current macroeconomic environment. Of those planning a vacation, 70 percent expressed concerns that external factors could prevent them from doing so. Factors cited included increased travel costs due to inflation (34%), financial constraints (32%), a busy work schedule (17%), and a lack of work coverage (15%).

The survey findings suggest that while virtual work has improved flexibility for employees, it is crucial for organisations to modernise their holiday policies to promote work-life balance. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, as employees have different preferences for recharging during their time off, whether it involves complete disconnection or integrating work and leisure activities into a single trip.

To create a flexible holiday strategy, organisations should consider the following steps:

  1. Implement an effective change management strategy by clearly communicating the reasons behind the policy change and setting expectations for employees. Understanding how work is accomplished within the organisation is vital to ensure adequate coverage and workforce optimization.
  2. Gain buy-in from leaders who will advocate for the new policies. It is important to demonstrate how flexible holiday policies align with business objectives and show leaders how they can support their teams in taking time off.
  3. Monitor the progress of the new policies and assess their impact on productivity. Establish baseline measurements for productivity and utilization and track how these metrics are affected by the new holiday strategies. Encourage employees to take time away and emphasize the importance of disconnecting during vacations.

By prioritising work-life balance and modernizing holiday policies, organisations can improve the employee experience and foster a healthier and more productive workforce.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.