Canadians are getting worse at this. Vacation deprivation is on
the rise. The correction needs to be encouraged in the workplace,
and then mandated.
“What amazes me is the number of people who don’t take their
full vacation time,” said Dr. Posen. “The survey actually showed
that 90 per cent of Canadians said they would make sacrifices for
just one more day of vacation time.”
Those theoretical sacrifices include giving up alcohol, television
and one week without their smart phones.
Over one-third of Canadians have cancelled or postponed their
vacation due to work responsibilities. When employees are healthier
there is less absenteeism, less stress leave, less leaves of absence
and less illness. A well-rested employee will even have improvements
in concentration and short-term memory. By creating work
environments that encourage taking proper vacation time, companies
can significantly improve the wellbeing of their employees.
“Too much stress affects the brain cells’ ability to communicate
with other cells,” said Dr. Posen. “One area affected is the hippocampus,
where we store memory. When people are chronically
stressed, this part of the brain doesn’t work as well. People become
forgetful, especially regarding short-term memory.”
Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians report being more focused after
vacation time, and 93 per cent feel more relaxed and rejuvenated.
Growing in popularity is the “use it or lose it” mandate that
eliminates employees’ ability to carry over their vacation days, a
subtle encouragement that vacations aren’t absolutely necessary.
By taking the choice out of the employees’ hands, they can feel less
guilty about leaving the workplace.
“I think everyone needs time off,” said Shannon. “The workplace
has only gotten faster and more frantic thanks to technology. I
remember leaving my place of employment and you really couldn’t
do much. In the ’80s, if Mr. and Mrs. Smith were away on vacation,
that task would just have to wait. That is not the case now – no
one will wait. The world keeps moving.”
And even though projects might not want to wait, it’s important
to take a step back once in a while to recharge the mind’s
“Vacations are really important to allow the stress reaction to
be turned off or turned down,” said Dr. Posen. “People need to recover,
rejuvenate and decompress. Longer time-outs are important
because we need extended time to recuperate. I believe we need at
least three weeks of holidays each year. Two weeks probably used
to be okay, but the world has gotten faster and more stressful.”
HR professionals can advocate for mandatory vacations in the
workplace. By allowing a day of catch-up after an employee’s vacation,
the employee won’t stress themselves out in their final days
of vacation, and can use the full number of days they are allotted
for a break.
By granting employees a gentle re-entry on their return, you are
telling them they won’t be hit with a pile of work on their first day
back. This is the power of permission.
And of course, HR professionals should lead by example and
take their fully allotted vacation time as well.
Vacations are a prescription for health, stress relief, energy rejuvenation,
reconnecting with family and friends and, perhaps most
important of all: happiness. Eight per cent of Canadians associate
vacation time with happiness.
“Hockey coaches don’t rest their star players out of benevolence,”
said Dr. Posen. “They do it because they get better performances
out of their athletes when they are properly recharged.” n
health & wellness
“TODAY WE OPERATE IN A
OF STRESS. PROPER
VACATIONING IS AN ANTIDOTE
TO CHRONIC STRESS.”
– DR. DAVID POSEN, AUTHOR, IS WORK KILLING YOU?
44 ❚ JANUARY 2015 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL