We're all going on a summer holiday (apart from the ghost in personnel)

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The Independent Online
Pity the office ghost this bank holiday weekend. While colleagues relax with their families and friends, and even the astronauts on Mir put their feet up in space, he or she - but usually he - will still be at work, afraid to take a holiday, writes Roger Dobson.

"We are getting more like Japan with its strong organisational structures, where total commitment is seen as a way of getting on," says Dr Lance Workman, a psychologist at the University of Glamorgan.

"In the UK we already work something like 44 hours a week, the longest in the EU, and take a shorter lunch break," says Dr Workman. "But people need to be aware that not having a holiday and working long hours can shorten your life."

According to Professor Cary Cooper, a psychologist at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, vacation phobia is a growing problem in an industrial climate where people are insecure about their jobs.

While the office workaholic stays behind because he is addicted to work, the vacation phobic stays put because he is scared to risk not being there when the big decisions are made, or of no longer having a job on his return.

"Since the industrial revolution, we have had the workaholic types who refuse to take a holiday because work is their whole identity and they believe themselves indispensable," says Prof Cooper. "But now we have a new generation of people, the office ghosts, who just never go away.

"These are people who are so job insecure they don't want to take a holiday. They have seen other people leave and people being made redundant, and seen contracts change to short term or part time, and they feel very insecure about their work."

Elaine Bennett, of the Andrea Adams Trust, an anti-bullying pressure group, and Associate of the Industrial Society, recalls a case where a teacher with a severe bout of flu went to work because she feared the headteacher would be angry at having to employ a supply teacher.

"The teacher thought it would give the head ammunition to replace her with a cheaper teacher," says Ms Bennett.