The Limited Recharge Following a Vacation

Taking time off helps the majority of U.S. workers recover from stress and experience positive effects that improve their well-being and job performance, but for nearly two-thirds of working adults, the benefits of time away dissipate within a few days, according to a survey released by the American Psychological Association.

The Good Effects of a Vacation Wear Off Quickly

Nearly a quarter of working adults (24 percent) say the positive effects of vacation time – such as more energy and feeling less stress – disappear immediately upon returning to work, the survey found. Forty percent said the benefits last only a few days.

“People need time off from work to recover from stress and prevent burnout,” said David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, who heads APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “But employers shouldn’t rely on the occasional vacation to offset a stressful work environment. Unless they address the organizational factors causing stress and promote ongoing stress management efforts, the benefits of time off can be fleeting. When stress levels spike again shortly after employees return to work, that’s bad for workers and for business. Employers can do better.”

Still, It’s Worth It

When an organization’s culture encourages time off, employees are more likely to benefit from vacation time and those benefits last longer.

Upon returning from vacation, employees who said their organization’s culture encourages time off were more likely to report having more motivation (71 percent) compared to employees who said their organization doesn’t encourage time off (45 percent). They were also more likely to say they are more productive (73 percent vs. 47 percent) and that their work quality is better (70 percent vs. 46 percent).

Overall, they were more likely to say they feel valued by their employer (80 percent vs. 37 percent), that they are satisfied with their job (88 percent vs. 50 percent) and that the organization treats them fairly (88 percent vs. 47 percent). They were similarly more likely to say they would recommend their organization as a good place to work (81 percent vs 39 percent).

In organizations where time off is encouraged, 64 percent of employees said their employer provides sufficient resources to help them manage their stress. Only 18 percent of employees said the same in workplaces where time off is not encouraged. Overall, more than a third of working Americans (35 percent) reported experiencing chronic work stress saying during their workday they typically feel tense or stressed out, and just 41 percent said their employer provides sufficient resources to help employees manage their stress.

Nearly half of U.S. workers (49 percent) said low salaries are a significant source of work stress. Other reported sources of stress: lack of opportunity for growth or advancement (46 percent), too heavy of a workload (42 percent) and unrealistic job expectations and long hours (39 percent each).

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