Too many people work during their summer holidays in Denmark

Two in three working Danes check work-related texts and emails during their summer holidays. For about one in five, it is a requirement or expectation from their employer that they are available.

For many, the work life without boundaries extends into the summer holidays. A new survey by Analyse Danmark for IDA shows that a total of 65% are to some extent available to their workplace during their summer holiday. In other words, around 1.9 million employees in Denmark work during their summer holidays. 

In the survey, 36 per cent answered that they are available by phone and email, which they check less often than daily, while 21 per cent daily reads emails and messages. 8 per cent answer that those available 24/7, while only 34 per cent. replies that they have completely pulled the digital plug and cannot be contacted by their workplace during the summer holidays.

Eva Jakobsen, who is a working life consultant at IDA, believes that it is thought-provoking that so many people do not manage to put work aside during their summer holidays.

'Checking emails is not the purpose of your summer holiday. The purpose of your holiday is to give you peace and quiet to recover your brain and do something different from what you do every day. If we don't give our brain that break, we risk our brain becoming overloaded. It's not rocket science, but do yourself and your family a favour and shut down emails, calls and text messages from the workplace. In the same way that we can wear down the body if we work with heavy lifting every day, we can overload the brain if we don't let the brain recover,' she says.

"A lot of us have a bad habit of doing a bit of work whenever we have a free moment. When we want to check the weather or the next train departure, we may be notified of 10 unread work emails - and it takes a lot to resist the temptation of checking to see what those emails contain. In this way, one's brain has gone from being on holiday to being at work in a flash. 

She points out that a summer holiday serves an important purpose, giving us the peace and quiet to give our brain the rest it needs and do something different from our everyday lives. If we don't, we risk overloading our brains.

"Stress is the body's natural response to being overloaded and just as we can wear down the body by doing heavy lifting every day, we can overload the brain if we don't give it rest and the breaks it needs. Working late and being on standby during the summer holidays is actually the worst thing you can do, because then you're not really present anywhere, and it can cause frustration both among family and friends you should be on holiday with, and the colleagues who are looking after tasks during your absence," says Eva Jakobsen.

In the survey, 22 percent responded that their employer either expects or even requires that they are available during their summer holidays. And that's not good enough, says Eva Jakobsen.

"Our digital society never shuts down, but we need to find sensible ways to manage its impact on our daily lives to sustain a long and healthy work life. That's why we always encourage people to make clear agreements about expectations for presence and availability before the holidays. If things are really urgent and you're the only one who can do a job, it's okay for the manager to call. But make specific agreements, especially with new and young colleagues at work, that they will not read or answer emails during the holidays. Put auto-reply on your email and avoid writing things like "if it's urgent then send a text", because who decides what's urgent, you or your colleagues?" asks Eva Jakobsen.

The work life consultant points out that you will become a better version of yourself if you give your brain a rest during your holidays and do something different from what you usually do in everyday life.

"We need to be able to work for many years, and creating a sustainable work life requires conscious choices and clear agreements. If you've forgotten a few passwords when you return from holiday and turn on your PC for the first time, it's a clear sign that you've given your brain a break and had a proper rest during your summer holiday," she says.