Happy Holidays? The impact of time off on productivity & stress

Happy Holidays? The impact of time off on productivity & stress

Studies show that stress and fatigue have a detrimental impact on a person’s productivity. We all feel the evidence of this at work after a poor night’s sleep or when a bill is overdue. It was with this in mind that researchers set out to identify the impact of improved rest on productivity at work, and see whether the answer to better quality work does lie in more holiday time.

Does time off equal productivity?

As unbelievable as it sounds, the U.S is the only developed country in the world not to legally require employers to offer paid holiday. Furthermore, Americans only claim around half of their offered holiday on average. Conversely, many European countries are generous with their paid holiday leave policies: France offers 30 days per year, Sweden offers 41, and Austria, Belgium and Denmark even pay employees extra on holidays to cover the costs of their trips.

Researchers have studied the effects of holiday entitlement rules, and whether more breaks from work turn out more productive employees. The surprisingly inconclusive results suggest that although more time off does reduce employee stress, it does little to improve productivity in the workplace. Furthermore, the excitement and anticipation of an upcoming holiday has a far greater effect on employees’ stress levels than the holiday itself, with a noticeable slump in productivity and mood upon return to the norm of working life.

So while these studies don’t prove that more holiday equals better work, they shed light on possible positive changes. The stress brought about by prolonged holidays, and the idea of returning to work and falling behind, coupled with the excitement of approaching holidays, make shorter and more frequent periods off work the best holiday arrangement for employees and employers alike.

Best way forward

Well planned holiday leave works in everybody’s best interests. So ensure you claim all holiday due to you, and use it to your best advantage. Taking a few short, regular breaks throughout the year will ensure you achieve the work-life balance you need, and stop you from burning out. It’s crucial to arrange adequate cover for holidaying employees and this should arranged in good time, so any necessary adjustments can be made without unnecessary pressure. It’s also important to prepare for the inevitable post-holiday slump and recognise that it will take some time to settle back in.

There may be no direct relationship between holiday time and productivity, but the link to stress is clear. Poorly planned holidays result in more stress all round, which is why adequate planning is essential to avoiding such problems as understaffing and missed deadlines.