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Opening presents or opening your inbox? Over half of workers plan to check emails over Christmas

Christmas is usually a time for catching up with friends, unwinding with a festive film and overindulging at dinner

  • 52% of British workers will be checking their emails over the Christmas holidays
  • Three in 10 (29%) will check emails on Christmas Day
  • Working over Christmas may lead to stress and lower productivity, says JC Townend of Lee Hecht Harrison Penna

Christmas is usually a time for catching up with friends, unwinding with a festive film and overindulging at dinner. However, for over half of Brits the Christmas period also means replying to emails and catching up on work. New research (1) by Lee Hecht Harrison Penna, the global human capital consultancy, reveals 52% of workers will be checking their emails over Christmas. Furthermore, three in 10 (29%) say they will be checking emails on Christmas Day itself.

The majority of British workers cite negative reasons for why they clock in on over Christmas. Almost a quarter (23%) said they want to lessen their workload upon their return in January and almost the same percentage (22%) said they have work they need to finish. However, on a positive note one in five (20%) said they love their job and enjoy staying in the loop.

On average, those checking emails will spend one hour and 14 minutes in their inbox. However, it appears Mancunians are most eager to keep on top of work as they spend two hours and six minutes, almost an hour longer than the national average.

Top five cities spending the longest checking emails over Christmas


Total time employees plan to spend checking emails over Christmas


2 hours and 6 minutes


1 hour and 35 minutes


1 hour and 31 minutes


1 hour and 20 minutes


1 hour and 14 minutes

By contrast women seem more prepared than men to put their foot down when it comes to banning work from turning up uninvited to their festive fun, with 38% of women saying they won’t be checking their work inbox at all compared to 31% of men surveyed. 

JC Townend, CEO of UK and Ireland at Lee Hecht Harrison Penna, commented: “The Christmas holidays should be a time for rest and relaxation, so it is concerning that many workers will be logging into their emails over Christmas. Leaders should ensure their employees understand the importance of logging off mentally as well as physically. Excessive working means employees risk burn out, stress and exhaustion and won’t return to work in January feeling energised.

“Not only does this have a detrimental impact on workers themselves, but it affects the business on a wider level. Even for those who love their job, overworking means they won’t produce high quality work, come up with new ideas and approach their role with a fresh perspective. Before Brits head off on the Christmas break, leaders should remind them it is time for them to relax, unwind and come back to work in January feeling refreshed.”

Lee Hecht Harrison Penna offers these tips to workers to help leave work at work:

  • Take a long-term perspective on your to do list - Work out which actions will make the biggest impact on getting 2019 off to the right start and prioritise those.
  • Create a cut off – Be realistic about what you can achieve in 2018. Working at maximum capacity until the final hour is likely to mean you won’t be delivering at you prime so don’t be afraid to schedule some deadlines in January.
  • Make sure you're covered – Planning in advance with your team/colleagues to have a rota system for monitoring incoming requests over the holiday period and an emergency contact list means that no one will be left holding the fort and feeling the pull of their inbox. 
  • Start your stop clock - If you absolutely cannot resist checking in, allow yourself a time slot and stick to it.
  • Taking stock – If you can’t stop yourself from thinking about the office over Christmas use the opportunity to be mindful wisely. Take the time to reflect on your career big picture of 2018 and consider how to reframe it for greater success in the year ahead.

(1) The research was conducted by Opinium 20th – 22nd November 2018 among 2,007 UK adults