Agony Aunt

March 17, 2000

Q

Many of my colleagues do not want to take their full holiday entitlement because of their career commitments. I need the break, but I feel guilty about wanting to spend time with my family. What should I do?

A

Holidays are part of a job package. No one would dream of giving up their salary so why should they give up their holiday entitlement? It is important to strike a balance between your family life and your job. Everyone needs to recharge their batteries, and there is strong evidence that long hours damage health, not to speak of relationships. A holiday puts life into perspective and people generally work better when they get back after a break.

There is always a danger when colleagues act collectively that they can create a long-hours culture that it is difficult to change. It just takes someone to buck the trend and you find that others are only too happy to follow. After all, some people spend extra time at work simply to avoid going home because things are not good there. It is not really because they are dedicated to work.

Just think: no one ever said on their deathbed: "I wish I had spent more time at work."

Susan Cartwright, Chartered occupational psychologist and senior lecturer in organisational psychology, Manchester School of Management, UMIST. Co-author of Managing Workplace Stress

A

Our contractual agreement says staff with family responsibilities have priority in allocation of holiday to coincide with school holidays. But a survey of our members revealed this is not happening.

A lot of people work during holidays because they see them as a time when they can write and do research, teaching preparation or administration.

Keeping up to date and on top of academic work inevitably means we may sacrifice our personal time at evenings and weekends. But no one should feel guilty about spending time with family (and friends).

Holidays need protecting, or how else will you be able to share in your children's growing-up (and they in yours), enjoy and develop your personal relationships, or cultivate other aspects of yourself?

We all need holidays and time with those we are close to, otherwise we become more prone to illness and certainly less effective at work and at home.

Chris Miller, Nafthe branch negotiating secretary, University of the West of England

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