In our increasingly interconnected society, establishing firm boundaries between your work life and your personal life can be difficult. If you arrive home from work and your phone dings with a message from your boss marked ‘urgent’, what are you supposed to do?

Catching up on emails while commuting to work, answering messages outside of traditional 9-5 office hours, and researching at the dinner table to get ahead on that big project have all become increasingly common practices. In fact, checking emails on the way to work has become so commonplace that recent studies have recommended it should be included among employees’ paid working hours.1 As a result, figuring out where work ends and the rest of your life begins can feel like a blur.

This connectedness can be both a blessing and a curse. But, if the trend continues into your next holiday, you might have a problem. A recent study found that being contacted by your boss while on holiday is more stressful than bungee jumping, while having contact with your office while on leave is more annoying than being stood up on a date.2

A new survey by Budget Direct confirms Australians are particularly guilty of checking in with work throughout their holidays, with 52.4% of those surveyed admitting to accessing work communication channels during their recent holidays. The survey used a used a sample size of 1,000 employees weighted to be representative of Australian adults aged 18+

Do you check your work email or any other communication channels (e.g Chat) when you’re on a personal holiday?

Just over half said they had checked work-related emails, chat groups, or other communication channels while on personal holidays. Women were slightly more likely than men to succumb to a quick glance at their work emails, with 53.4% of surveyed women doing so, compared to 51.4% of men.

There was a greater disparity within age demographics, with 58.2% of 25-34 year olds surveyed saying they checked work communication channels while on holiday. A possible explanation for this is that 25-34 year olds were the first generation to enter the workforce after smartphones and similar technologies which allow employees to remotely check work communications became available on a mass scale. As such, it’s possible that employees in this age bracket consider checking work communications to just be part of life - even while they’re supposed to be relaxing on holiday. 45-54 year olds followed closely behind with 53.8% checking work communications while on holiday. In contrast, fewer than half of surveyed 35-44 year olds checked work communication channels while on holiday, with just 47.5%.

Among the states and territories, Victorians were the worst offenders with 56% of surveyed employees checking their work communication channels while away on leave. Nevertheless, most states were equally guilty. ACT and Tasmania were the only locations where fewer than half of surveyed employees checked work communication channels while on personal holidays, with 33.3% and 28% respectively.

Perhaps more concerning, though, is exactly how often Australians are checking work communications while on holiday, with nearly one third of surveyed employees saying they did so every day of their holiday.

If Yes - How often do you check your work email or any other communication channels (e.g Chat) when you’re on a personal holiday?

Given nearly one third of surveyed Australians checked work communication channels every day of their holidays, it’s no wonder so many of us struggle to establish work role boundaries. These results were pretty uniform between genders, showing men and women are equally susceptible to the lure of technology while on holiday.

They say that with age comes wisdom, however, according to the survey results, with age also comes responsibility. Although young people were more likely to check work communications overall while on holiday, older employees were significantly more likely to do so every day of their holiday. The likelihood of checking work communication channels every day of a holiday increased with age, from just a quarter of 18-24 year olds to 41.4% of 45-54 year olds. Seniority may have its perks, but this also shows that the additional responsibilities can make it more difficult to switch off from work. It’s possible 45-54 year olds felt they had more work to do than their younger counterparts, and therefore wanted to remain contactable in case any urgent problems arose in their absence.

Location-wise, Queenslanders were the most likely to check work communications every day of their holidays, with 40% of surveyed employees doing so, while at the other end of the scale, only 16.7% of Tasmanians checked their work communications every day of their holiday. Western Australians showed the most restraint, with 23.6% of those surveyed accessing their work emails just once during their holidays.

With these statistics in mind, it comes as no surprise that nearly a quarter of surveyed Australians have either deleted access to their work email throughout their holiday, or at least seriously considered doing so.

Have you ever deleted your access to work emails off your phone before or while on holiday?

24.3% of surveyed employees either deleted access to work emails during their holidays or thought about doing so, showing how difficult employees are finding it to disconnect from the office while on holiday. Men were only slightly more likely than women to have the urge to delete access to their work emails, 25.4% vs 23.4%, showing it’s an issue that affects both genders pretty equally.

Once again, younger generations were more likely to delete access to their work emails or consider doing so than their older counterparts, with 26.9% of surveyed 18- 24 year olds and 28.9% of 25-34 year olds doing exactly that. In contrast, only 18.2% of 45-54 year olds said they had either deleted or thought about deleting access to their work emails while on holiday. This echoes other results, with younger people also being less likely to check work communications every day of their holiday. Since older employees are typically more likely to fill senior or managerial roles, it seems probable that they have less freedom to delete access to their work emails, as they want to remain connected throughout their holidays. Equally, it’s possible that older employees are less familiar with the technology, and are therefore less confident about deleting it.

Western Australians led the way in deleting access to their work emails with a massive 29.3% of surveyed employees doing so, more than double Tasmania, where only 14.3% had deleted access.

No matter what demographics you fit into, one thing seems certain: with exciting new technologies enabling unprecedented levels of interconnectedness, establishing boundaries between your work life and personal life appears to be more difficult than ever, and Australian workers are struggling to get this balance right.

Disclaimer

This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in October 2018. All figures are from this research unless stated otherwise. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 1,000 weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+)

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