Updated: Jan 20
Many of us are notorious for being workaholics.
In 2020, An American survey found that an overwhelming majority of U.S. employees have shortened, postponed, or canceled their vacation time (1). In the same year, it was announced that employees from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) tallied up to more than 20,000 days of unused leave worth S$10.25 million (2).
These staggering numbers are a one-way street to collective burnout. Whether it’s a vacation or a mini getaway, everyone deserves a holiday to keep stress levels in check. And both employers, as well as employees, should schedule sufficient time off to sustain both wellbeing and productivity.
Why Aren’t People Taking Their Holidays?
Why aren't people enjoying the privilege of paid holidays?
It may seem foolish for people to forgo their time-off. But between hustle culture and fast-paced businesses, many are actually trapped in an overworking cycle. Oftentimes, we find it hard to stop. Here are a couple of reasons why we might struggle to take our holidays:
1. To maintain expectations
Are you on your first job? Perhaps you’re trying to upkeep your performance after getting promoted? These expectations at the workplace may abstain you from taking longer holidays.
For instance, the notion that taking holidays equates to laziness is deeply ingrained in the Japanese workplace. 58% of Japanese workers said they feel guilty about taking their paid vacation (3). Because of this, people can't seem to switch off fully as they sip on their beach-side martinis.
2. Heavy workload
When a business runs at light speed, people fear taking holidays because they know they will come back with a monumental mountain of tasks. And even when you’ve scheduled in your paid leaves, an unmanageable workload or unexpected project might mean it's not always possible.
3. Struggle to disconnect
The rise of remote work and the internet could well be to blame too. According to a Glassdoor survey, nearly half (44%) of employees reported doing some work while on holiday (4). In the same study, about one-fourth (18%) of employees who took paid time off said that a colleague has contacted them about a work-related matter.
Benefits Of Taking Proper Holidays
Abstaining from a proper holiday appears harmless. Clocking in extra hours may even seem helpful to your career. But evidence has proven that we are actually less productive and less healthy without sufficient breaks.
So understand that when you do take time off, you're not shirking off responsibility. Rather you’re taking responsibility for your wellbeing and performance. Here’s why:
1. Prevents burnout
Stress spikes levels of cortisol and adrenaline. This can be helpful in the short term by triggering a “fight or flight” response that deals with sudden threats. But prolonged chronic stress actually increases your risk for health issues. This includes heart disease, which led to the death of 745,000 people in 2016 (5).
Luckily, a rejuvenating break can easily combat prolonged stress. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, holidays reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that they associate with anxiety (6).
2. Nurtures relationships
Marriages and family relationships are known to breakdown when even one member devotes too much time to the office. Studies have shown that the couples who go on holidays together are much more likely to stay together than couples who don't (7).
So whether it’s a week-long vacation, honeymoon, “babymoon”, or rural retreat, family holidays provide the perfect opportunity to strengthen relationships between loved ones.
3. Increases mindfulness
According to a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology, both meditation exercises and holidays were associated with higher levels of well-being and increased mindfulness (8).
Holidays break us free from our normal routines. And this decreased familiarity stops us from operating on autopilot, which we normally do when working. Mindfulness occurs because these novel experiences help us to be more present in our surroundings.
4. Boosts productivity
When we’re completely relaxed, our brain begins to consolidate and process information. Out-of-office experiences also enhance cognitive flexibility and depth of thought (9).
All this helps us make more integrated decisions when we come back to work. A well-rested mind and body also means a greater capacity to learn and better overall performance at work.
Remember, your career is a marathon and not a sprint. Hence, those breaks are essential for long-term success. If you’re still worried about overbearing workloads and deadlines, the key is to arrange and schedule your time-off in advance. Additionally, employers need to respect their employees when they do so.
So, it’s time for us to put the guilt aside and plan your next getaway. Kick back and relax with a cocktail as you put your mind at rest. Ultimately, your mind, body, and even your career will thank you.
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