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Is the busy summer holiday period a myth?

16 August 2023 5 min read

hammock on beach. busy summer holiday period

It’s the height of summer, at least in the northern hemisphere that is. It’s a time we typically think of as being a busy period for staff holiday requests, and frequently receiving the usual ‘out of office’ emails. But is the summer holiday period actually a myth?

According to our own anonymised data, edays’ customers use 25% of their total annual leave allowance between June and August on average. That suggests that leave is actually being used evenly throughout the year, with no significant increase during the summer months.

Having said that, it’s common for people to take longer breaks during the summer – switching off for an entire week or even two rather than just a few days here and there. And if everyone in a team is taking it in turns to have their long break, it certainly starts to feel like coworkers haven’t seen each other for a long time.

Are businesses less productive during summer?

Summer time is often referred to as a ‘productivity slump’ for companies, with researchers finding that workplace productivity drops by 19% during the season.

What’s more, employees report feeling at least 45% more distracted during summer. That could be due to the stressors of planning a holiday in itself, as well as trying to finish up work in time before taking leave. Parents may also be feeling the added pressure of additional childcare duties during the school summer holidays.

It’s perhaps not surprising then that employees are susceptible to distraction, and productivity levels take a dip.

Slowing down for summer brings burnout to the surface

While we all need a break from work, and summer feels like a great time to do it, slowing down can actually cause some to feel the effects of burnout more acutely. A recent survey of more than 10,000 global employees found that 42% felt burned out.

Often it’s not until we take a break, do we realise how much we needed it. Finding that all-important work-life balance is not easy, and it depends on a multitude of factors including culture, industry and workplace attitudes to leave and absence.

In many countries in Europe, a ‘summer shutdown’ or ‘August shutdown’ is a common practice – where employees will take 2-4 consecutive weeks’ annual leave, and some businesses close down altogether. But in other countries, that simply isn’t the norm, and taking a much-needed rest is not always possible.

Living in an always-on society

In today’s hyper-connected world, it can be difficult to switch off. With our work emails, Slack, Teams and Zoom apps connected to our phones, it’s hard not to check them even when we’re on annual leave.

As a result, many employees are often not getting the rest they need when they’re on holiday. Especially if they’re spending time answering emails or calls, or even just checking to see if anything urgent has landed in their inbox in their absence.

In a recent survey we conducted, 25% of respondents admitted to worrying about their workload ‘a lot’ while on annual leave, with a further 33% saying they worry during busy periods.

Half of respondents said they ‘sometimes’ check their work emails while on holiday, and 27% said they check them ‘often’.

These stats suggest that even when people are on holiday, during summer or any other time, their brains are not getting the rest they need. Employees may not be physically at work, but thinking about it during their downtime are almost one and the same. It certainly poses questions about a company’s workplace culture and how much the importance of taking leave is prioritised, if employees feel they can’t switch off.


Want to find out more? Downloaded our free whitepaper Exploring Global Attitudes to Workplace Leave

For some industries, summer makes no difference

Of course, there are numerous industries where the typical ‘summer holiday’ is not a factor. In sectors such as healthcare, construction, manufacturing and retail, the work continues as normal.

And in some industries, such as hospitality and agriculture, productivity even heats up during the summer, so employees may be less inclined to take a summer break, and use their annual leave in different ways during the rest of the year.

Understanding how leave is used in your organisation

It seems that while taking long summer breaks is preferred by some individuals, industries and even countries, it’s not quite as black and white as you might think. Much of it depends on the sector, company attitudes towards leave and how empowered employees feel taking a summer break – so focusing on what works for individual businesses’ strategies and their people remains the best approach.

Want to gain a better understanding of how leave is used in your organisation and resource plan effectively?

More than just managing absence and leave – edays goes beyond and enables you to understand why, when, where and how your workforce takes leave and absence. Empowering you and your organisation to support your people, be compliant with local laws and increase employee wellbeing.

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Georgina at edays
August 16, 2023

Georgina Mackintosh is an accomplished copywriter and marketing professional with a background that spans several industries. Her writing focuses on HR topics such as employee wellbeing, engagement and experience - as well as absence management best practice, how-to guides and news from the HR sector.