Give it a rest: Vacations actually boost productivity
Posted on August 9, 2013

In America we LOVE to work. At least that’s how it seems based on our obsession with productivity. The average American is skipping over half of their earned vacation days every year (9.6 days). Compare that with our European friends and you’ll find that they take twice as much vacation as we do.

It seems that Americans are either too work-obsessed, or too afraid to take time away. But Europeans have figured out something that we haven’t. Logging more hours does not necessarily equal accomplishing more work.

And science says that the Europeans are right. It turns out that vacations actually boost productivity rather than prevent it.

“In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent. Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm.”

The truth is that human beings are not meant to work continuously without a break. We are designed to work for a period, then rest for a period. It’s clear in every aspect of our lives, including our work lives, that we need rest.

Take it from the pros

Professional athletes know that the best results come from interval training (physical training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity workouts, interspersed with periods of rest).

Just like a person gets better fitness results from a combination of sprinting and jogging, workers need periods of less intensity to be effective. Running nonstop for extended periods of time will only lower productivity and cause burnout. No one can keep going at the pace many positions demand without taking vacation time to recharge. And rather than reducing companies to chaos, allowing vacations actually boosts productivity.

The proof is productive workers

In light of the growing amount of research showing that a rested worker is a productive worker, many companies have thrown out their old vacation packages all together–opting instead for unlimited vacation time.

Sound crazy? Maybe not. Some big players in the American business scene have adopted this model with fantastic results including Accessibility Partners, IBM, Netflix and Hubspot.

According to Dharmesh Shah, cofounder and CTO of Hubspot,

“Rather than hoard days for times when they really need it, then scramble to take days at the end of the year (or fight for extra pay for time not taken), Shah says Hubspot’s open, unlimited vacation policy makes all of these problems go away. ‘Employees take the vacation when they need it and we don’t have a spike of vacations at specific points of time,’ he explains.”

Make time for yourself

Still, the hard truth is that most American companies have yet to embrace this model. And that means that individuals need to think about and plan to take regular vacations.

If taking a vacation is just out of the question in your current role, be sure that you find ways throughout your day and week to decompress.

Tags: work, productivity, vacations, productive, decompress, Americans,