A recent study found that workers who take vacation are equally as productive as those who don’t — and (unsurprisingly) they also have lower levels of stress and fatigue. So why are Americans today taking significantly less vacation than in the past?
In 2010, Americans took an average of 21 days of vacation per year. That number is now down to 16 days per year. So the relative strength of the economy and stability of employment aren’t the reasons people are taking fewer vacation days. The authors of the study say increased technological connectivity combined with “productivity organizational culture” have put extra stress on workers.
The lack of vacation doesn’t allow people’s brains and bodies to recover, Shawn Anchor and Michelle Gielen wrote in Harvard Business Review. Quality vacations have a measurable impact on productivity, but Americans simply aren’t getting this essential benefit.
Anchor and Gielen say that not all vacation has the same impact. If your vacation is poorly planned, or if you’re still hooked into your job, you’re not really going on vacation. However, well-planned vacations that you let you get far away from work have a high ROI.
Let’s start with businesses approaching vacation as an investment — rather than a perk or a necessary evil. Instead, management should think about it as a chance for employees to recharge and come back more productive. In fact, managers can lead by example in this area by taking quality vacations.
Working for Free
The vast majority of people wouldn’t work their job for free. Sure, they might like, even love, their job, but they sacrifice their precious time every day because the job pays. And yet Americans, despite 95% saying that paid time off is important, leave millions of hours of vacation on the table every year. In fact, researchers found that American workers lose $61.4 billion by not taking vacation days.
Who’s to Blame?
Part of the blame is on workers. People truly believe that if they work more, they will be more productive and help the company more. But research has found this isn’t the case. And management has recognized this — researchers found that employees who took more time off were 30% more likely to get a raise.
Managers need to make vacation a priority too. If you see a tired, stressed-out employee who appears to be at their breaking point, ask them when the last time they took a vacation was. And if an employee is clearly hooked in while they’re out of the office, let them know that their priority should be rest and recovery. Though it’s not intuitive, you’ll actually establish a more productive workplace.