Most of us say we need a break or that we feel overworked from time to time.
So why is it that, on average, American workers take only half of the vacation days they’ve earned each year? And a startling 18% take no time off at all? More than 60% say they never fully disengage—not on the weekends, not during their vacation. These alarming statistics from The State of the American Vacation reveal that American workers are constantly on the brink of burning out. Vacations aren’t just about sipping tropical drinks and relaxing. They’re a necessary relief from the pressure valve that comes with working every day.
The benefits of a few days off are remarkable:
- Reduced stress. A 2017 study by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations reduce stress by removing people from anxiety-inducing activities and environments. Research from Radboud University found that after taking time off, workers had fewer stress-related physical complaints such as headaches, backaches and insomnia. These positive effects can even extend for weeks beyond the period of the vacation.
- Prevention from heart disease. Over the years, many studies have highlighted the cardiovascular health benefits of taking a vacation. The Journal of the American Medical Association noted that men who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were 32% more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least a week off each year. Even missing one year’s vacation is associated with a higher risk of heart disease in both men and women.
- Improved productivity. Our perpetual rush to get more done in less time may allow us to get ahead for a period of time, but consistent focus is required to be truly productive. Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional ten hours of vacation time they took, their year-end performance ratings improved by 8%. As an added bonus, they found that the frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm. According to a report by Expedia, 85% of employees around the world say that they are happier at work after they’ve had a vacation. And the happier your employees are, the more productive they’re likely to be.
- Enhanced creativity. When people take time off from work, they open themselves up to new experiences that differ from their daily grind. Simply thinking about things other than work from time to time can spark the imagination and lead to improved innovation.
Many people say they don’t take time off out of a sense of duty. While that may indicate a well-run company where employees enjoy their jobs, the reality is that stresses pile up even in the most positive atmospheres. Some people simply don’t want to return to a mountain of work, while others feel that no one else can handle the requirements of their job in their absence. Unfortunately, what these workers don’t realize is that forfeiting their vacation time comes at the expense of their physical and mental health, wellbeing and productivity.
How can you break the ‘vacation-less’ cycle in your company?
Organizations need to take an active role in getting their employees to take vacations. Create a culture where taking vacations are favored and demonstrate your commitment to time away from the office:
- Offer a liberal vacation policy. Ensure that even new hires get two weeks off in their first year, and be more generous with employees with seniority or those in higher-level positions.
- Enable people to disengage. Once the time comes for employees to be off, make sure they actually distance themselves from work. That means not calling, emailing or texting them with questions. Upon their return, try not to inundate them with endless meetings and urgent to do’s. Give people a chance to catch up on their work and time to get back into the flow of things.
- Prepare for the absences. If colleagues will cover vacationers’ jobs, make sure those taking time off provide a summary of work in progress, major responsibilities, key contact information, and other pertinent data necessary to meet crucial deadlines. It may be hard to operate without certain employees, and finding that out can be important, as well.
- Lead by example. If you’re a manager or executive who rarely takes a day off, keep in mind that your employees are watching you. The many benefits of vacations apply to all workers, including those at the top.
Need some guidance creating and administering effective time off procedures for your organization?
About The HR Team: Founded in 1996, The HR Team is a Maryland-based human resources outsourcing firm committed to developing strategic, customized solutions that respond to the unique needs and cultures of organizations of all types and sizes. Available as a one-source alternative to an in-house HR department or on an à la carte project basis, the company’s flexible service models address the full spectrum of HR needs that many organizations struggle to address. The HR Team helps clients achieve their highest level of success by providing value-driven human resources services that leave them time to focus on what they do best: directing business growth and profitability. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, the firm serves all of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. To learn more about The HR Team, call 410.381.9700 or visit https://www.thehrteam.com/.