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UK workers reluctant to take career breaks

Opodo.co.uk
gig economy

New international research reveals that British employees are wary of extended breaks away from work because of long-term impact on their careers despite two-thirds expressing interest in ‘Sabbaticals’. More than half think it would be difficult to return to work post-sabbatical.

Despite almost two-thirds (65 percent) of British employees saying they would consider an extended leave away from work, it seems they are unlikely to take such a break and instead risk burn-out. New independent research commissioned by travel specialists Opodo.co.uk compared Britain with other nations across Europe and the USA, which reveals that British workers are lagging behind employees from other countries when it comes to flexible working hours and benefits like extended leave such as ‘sabbaticals’.

UK employees are among the other European nationals most likely to be allowed extended leave by their current employer, with one in five (20 percent) polled in Britain saying their workplace allows them to take this break. However, more than half (54 percent) of those questioned believe it would be hard to return to work after a sabbatical. A very wary one in five (21 percent) feel it could make them less employable, while a further one in ten (13 percent) think it will harm their career prospects with their current employer.

Many other European nations are much more in favour of sabbaticals, stipulating that it helps with employment for potential roles in the future within companies across the globe, while British workers think that it will do more harm than good. Almost two-thirds of people (61 percent) in Spain believe extended leave will help them in the future in terms of employability and more than half (60 percent) of the people in Germany said the same, while a further 49 percent of people working in France also believe sabbaticals can help with employment.

The research suggests that an extended break from work would actually be useful for many, despite Brits being least likely of all the nations surveyed to return refreshed from their summer holiday. Almost one-in-four of us (23 percent) feel revitalised after a regular holiday or extended break, compared to 48 percent of people from Germany and 47 percent of respondents from the USA. A spokesperson for Opodo.co.uk said: “It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by the stress of working life, particularly now we are working longer hours until later in life.

“Given to the advancements in modern technology, many now also have their work emails and calendar synced to their phone, meaning we’re no longer simply working 9-5 but are clocked on 24/7. Taking a sabbatical can be a great release valve for this stress and offer the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted – whether that’s going travelling, learning a new language or skill, or just taking some time off to focus on yourself.”

According to the research, if Brits were to request extended leave from their employer, the major factor influencing their decision would be to remove themselves from work-related stress. Half of those people surveyed (50 percent) stipulated this as their prime motive while improving mental health (43 percent) and improving physical health (32 percent) were also cited as reasons. When it comes to other forms of flexible working benefits that can help to improve employee welfare, the study reveals that British companies are lagging behind other businesses in other countries.

Three-quarters of employees in the UK (75 percent) don’t believe they have a generous holiday allowance and 84 percent aren’t offered time back in lieu for days worked over the weekend. It’s of no surprise then that 69 percent of Brits don’t think they have a good work-life balance. The nation that offers the most flexible working options is Spain, followed by the USA and Germany.

The study reveals that just 30 percent of British workers feel they have a good work/life balance, which is less than the worldwide average of more than a third (34 percent) people surveyed. The countries that rated themselves with having the best ratio of work and personal life are Portugal (43 percent) and the USA (41 percent), and those who claim to have the least are Germans (27 percent).

The nations with the most flexible working options
Spain leads the way in terms of flexible working patterns for its staff. It was the most likely nation to offer a summer-hours arrangement with a third (29 percent) allowed to alter their schedule compared to a worldwide average of 11 percent. Interestingly, despite its reputation for less annual leave, those in the USA were most likely to complement their employer’s attitude towards vacations with 37 percent saying they had a generous holiday allowance, compared to an average of 22 percent worldwide.

Most common company benefits around the world
UK employers were rated among the most generous of the nations polled when it comes to leave, with more employees here saying they had a generous holiday allowance. However, regarding flexibility for personal reasons people have said they may struggle to negotiate time off for reasons such as catching a flight with only 15 percent of employers allowing this.

Perhaps due to unpredictable weather, summer-hours schedules are not seen as a priority in the UK with only 4 percent of employers offering an alternative schedule, compared to 11 percent overseas.

Benefit

UK

Worldwide

A generous holiday allowance

25 percent

22 percent

Flexibility around working from home i.e. for house maintenance visits

19 percent

17 percent

Time off in lieu for days worked over the weekend

16 percent

16 percent

Flexibility to leave early to catch a flight/go on holiday

15 percent

22 percent

Flexible working hours for parents to juggle childcare

15 percent

16 percent

Leave early Friday

14 percent

19 percent

An unpaid sabbatical

13 percent

10 percent

A paid sabbatical

7 percent

9 percent

Summer Hours’ schedule i.e. 8-3pm shift

4 percent

11 percent

None of the above

38 percent

32 percent

Most common reasons for sabbaticals
Worldwide, it seems that reducing stress and improving health are the main factors behind employees needing to have a sabbatical. Brits are the most likely to want to go it alone (17 percent) and are only half as likely as those in the rest of the world to use their leave as an opportunity to learn a new language.

Reason

UK

Worldwide

To get away from the stress of working life

50 percent

49 percent

To improve my mental health

43 percent

41 percent

To improve my physical health

32 percent

35 percent

To go travelling with my family (including children)

28 percent

33 percent

To go travelling with my partner/spouse

26 percent

30 percent

To go on a course / learn a new skill

18 percent

20 percent

To go travelling alone

17 percent

15 percent

To go travelling with friends

17 percent

19 percent

To reassess my career path

14 percent

16 percent

To gain experience in a new field of work

13 percent

15 percent

To go volunteering

12 percent

13 percent

To experience a country I might emigrate to

11 percent

16 percent

To set up a new business

10 percent

12 percent

To learn a language

8 percent

15 percent

To learn a new sport/hobby i.e. diving, surfing

7 percent

9 percent

To get over a breakup

6 percent

6 percent

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