Vacation Time Recharges U.S. Workers - Positive Effects Vanish Within Days

Jun 27, 2018

When vacations are done right, employees feel appreciated and are more productive. Businesses have lower turnover rates, are more productive and employees are more likely to recommend the organization as a good place to work.

Taking a vacation from work has proven to help employees recover from stress and improve performance, according to psychiatrists. Researchers are finding positive effects from a vacation are usually lost within a few days of coming back to the office. 

Employers want productive businesses and employees according to David Ballard, the director of the American Psychological Association’s Center of Organizational Excellence. Ballard said preparation and workplace culture can help or prevent a vacation’s lasting effects on workers.

“It’s a pretty common experience, especially if you come back to work and work is piled up and your workload is heavier than ever,” Ballard said. “You have to deal with problems that have occurred while you were away. That actually makes the benefits go away even faster.”

When organizations give paid leave, Ballard said about a third of the employees he surveyed say their workload makes it hard for them to be away. About a quarter say they worry they’re going to miss important information or opportunities, so they avoid taking time off because they’ll feel guilty.

“One of the interesting findings, that when the organization’s culture supports taking time off, employees were more likely to have those stress recovery experiences,” Ballard said. “They were more likely to report those benefits like better mood and more energy and more motivation and productivity and those benefits lasted longer. For example, when employees said that their organization did not support time off, 38 percent of workers said that the benefits of vacation went away immediately when they came back. That was compared to 14 percent when they were supported by their employer.”

Ballard said planning vacations around deadlines and busy times of the year is one of the employee’s responsibilities along with planning a way to ease back into work when they return. Coming back to the office with a pile of work and backed up emails will cause more stress than what you had before the vacation. Ballard said planning together as a team to plan ahead will increase productivity.

“What are the expectations around availability and responsiveness when somebody is away from work and coordination so it’s not hitting around crunch time or deadlines,” Ballard said. “Or when too many people are out at the same time that way it’s not overburdening those team members who are still around and it’s not spilling into your vacation time as well.”

When vacations are done right, Ballard said employees feel appreciated and are more productive. Businesses have lower turnover rates, are more productive and employees are more likely to recommend the organization as a good place to work.