Can you switch off your mobile phone on holiday?

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

According to a new study released by, 68% of Brits have been contacted by work when on holiday.

The study – a combination of lab research and representative surveys with 6,500 Europeans, 2,000 of them in the UK – was commissioned by in order to explore the impact of not switching off when off. It was carried out in conjunction with the acclaimed neuro-psychologist Dr David Lewis. By measuring the human body’s response to stress triggers in a laboratory environment, the results scientifically prove for the first time the extraordinary levels of stress that are felt by Brits receiving work phone calls, voicemails, emails and text messages when they actually should relax during their well-deserved breaks.


With over 30 million Brits expected to have their summer holidays interrupted because they’re being contacted by their boss (which happened to 45 percent), colleagues (42 percent), somebody else from work (13 percent) or their employees (5 percent) – on average this results in two hours on average spent with work during a one week break. The causes of interruptions were routinely deemed as completely unimportant by three in five holidaymakers. And this is no surprise looking at the list of reasons for a ‘pool call’: Being asked where a document was saved (22 percent) or for computer log in details (15 percent) were among the most common reasons. How to turn a computer on, checking how to file expenses or whether an invoice has been processed (each 7 percent), how regularly the office plants needed watering and where the air conditioning unit was located were also cited as reasons. 5 per cent revealed they were called to be asked when they were coming back to the office. And one in ten (10 percent) were even begged to work on something.

According to the research the holiday disrupter’s most common method to reach out to vacationers is a phone call, closely followed by text messages and emails. Instant messenger services like WhatsApp were also revealed as increasingly common ways to be contacted. 11 per cent said they had been FaceTimed or contacted over Skype – bringing work visually to the beach.

A colleague getting in touch is as stressful as a traffic jam

The lab research, conducted by psychologists, brought to light that receiving a single phone call, email or text message from a work colleague whilst lying on a beach generated a greater level of stress than getting into a verbal fight with a loved one, being stood up on date or being stuck in a traffic jam. Stress levels were only narrowly surpassed by the experience of lost luggage, ranked the highest of all the scenarios measured.

The study revealed that it took Brits more than 4 hours to wind down and get back into holiday mode after being interrupted. For more than one in five (20 percent) it wiped out an entire day or even more of their holiday while 2/3 (66 percent) couldn’t switch off for up to 12 hours.

Those thinking of going into a career in retail, finance and marketing might want to think again, with people from these sectors identified as most likely to have their holiday time interrupted. They were closely followed by people working in IT, law and sales.

Over a quarter (27 percent) stated that they have answered work calls because they feel obliged to, only slightly fewer (23 percent) because they feel responsible even when away, while over one in ten (14 percent) did it to prove they were committed and almost as many (8 percent) admit to simply being workaholics.

If the profession can’t be changed anymore, it’s not too late to enjoy relaxed holidays – there is a last minute solution: Anyone wishing to avoid a disturbance is being advised to turn their phones off between mid-morning and mid-afternoon – revealed as the most likely time to get an office interruption. Laptops and tablets are also advised as being avoided after being cited as common technology devices holiday makers are getting reached on.

Stressful situations in descending order

1. Boss calling on holiday

2. Bungee jump

3. Fight with partner

4. Car breaking down

5. Stuck in a traffic jam

Top 10 reasons why Brits where contacted by work when away on holiday

1. To ask where a document was saved/ if I could send it through (22 percent)

2. To ask for some log in details (15 percent)

3. To ask about the status of a project (13 percent)

4. To ask if I could work on something (10 percent)

5. To share work updates with me (10 percent)

6. To ask if I would be able to attend a meeting when I’m back (8 percent)

7. To ask something about my handover (8 percent)

8. To ask if I could read over a document (7 percent)

9. To ask whether an invoice has been processed (7 percent)

10. To ask how to turn your computer on (7 percent)

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