Have you ever had a vacation that was just long enough? At the end of a week off, have you ever thought, “That was perfect, and now I can’t wait to get back to work”?
Well, I’ve just returned to the office after a week at home, and this morning I surprised myself thinking that I was looking forward to my commute! So now it’s back to work, but I can’t help thinking of vacations. Well, sort of: since I’ve been off and not thinking about work, vacations are all I’ve got to talk about.
I think we all know the general intentions behind employee vacations: reducing stress, maintaining health, improving morale, enhancing compensation, and so on. I know that I feel much better after a few uninterrupted days of personal time—despite a bit of back-breaking labour on the house. I got lots of exercise, lots of sun (in May—in Toronto!), lots of rest, and saw lots of friends.
But maybe you heard about this: in 2009, an Expedia.ca/HarrisDecima survey reported that approximately 34 million vacation days go unused in Canada each year. Moreover, 25 percent of Canadian workers don’t use their full vacation allotment in a year, and 42 percent of the survey respondents claimed they felt “stressed, tired and vacation-deprived” (compared to 33 percent in 2008).
Well no kidding! If you don’t take your vacation, sure you’re going to feel vacation-deprived. (We’re still waiting for results from the 2010 Vacation Deprivation™ survey.)
My question is: what is a legitimate reason to skip vacation?
I’m not sure there is one!
The most common excuses respondents gave for not taking their vacations were:
- They are too busy to take time off: “work is their life”
- They feel guilty about taking time off work
- The poor economy
Interestingly, 41 percent of respondents also said that after a vacation they experience greater productivity and a better connection to their jobs, and 54 percent said they feel “rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal lives” afterward. These numbers seem to show a logical disconnect between Canadian workers’ words and actions: they worry that taking time off will negatively affect their job performance or that their employers will think badly of them, but when they actually do take a vacation, they perform better.
At the same time, many people take their work with them while on “vacation”. Thirty-two percent of vacationers have “trouble coping with stress from work” while away, and we’ve all heard the stories of workers attached to their Blackberry phones during days at the beach.
I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a bad idea to keep up with work while on vacation. I enjoy my job, and there are some aspects of it—like social media—where the line between work and personal life blurs so sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m working. No doubt, with increasingly flexible work arrangements, mixing work and leisure is something people will just choose to do, without feeling pressured to do so, and without the extra stress associated with it. But it seems clear that taking an extended and consecutive break (i.e., more than 16 hours!) from work can perform wonders for your work habits and general attitude and health. And some workaholics should probably be forced to disconnect completely every once in a while!
So what about you: do you encourage employees to use their full vacation allotment? Do you find that well-rested employees are more productive, healthier and happier than others?
For more information on workplace vacation scheduling and the survey, take a look at Who decides when employees take vacation? And who would decide not to take it? on HRinfodesk.
In addition, keep your eyes open for our commentary on the 2010 Vacation Deprivation™ survey, as soon as Expedia.ca gets around to releasing it.
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor