Taking time off

Employees should be encouraged to take their allotted vacation, decompress

Vacation deprivation — not having enough vacation time or not using some or all of your vacation allotment — is on the rise among Canadians. In fact, 48 per cent report feeling somewhat or very vacation-deprived, according to a 2014 study by Expedia. This is up from 40 per cent last year — and it continues to rise.

Each year, Canadians tell us loud and clear they are vacation-deprived. And while most employees are given, on average, two to three weeks of vacation time, there appears to be a gap between having vacation time and actually taking all of it.

Furthermore, work often interferes with vacations for those who do take time away. Nearly four in 10 respondents (37 per cent) have cancelled or postponed vacation plans because of work, even though most Canadians (72 per cent) say their boss is supportive of them taking vacation time (this number declined from 80 per cent in last year’s survey). 

When Canadians do take a vacation, disconnecting from the office is still a difficult task. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents will regularly, or even constantly, check work email or voicemail — a significant jump from last year’s 27 per cent. Bringing your phone — or even worse, your laptop — on vacation makes it harder to fully unplug, unwind and relax.

Why it’s an issue
Almost 80 per cent of respondents to the survey of 1,001 adults report feeling mentally or physically tired and stressed out due to lack of vacation, most likely affecting their workplace productivity.

While work may seem like a priority and vacation a luxury, vacations are an integral part of maintaining physical and mental health. Even a short vacation can help relieve stress, increase overall happiness and strengthen relationships.

“We really feel the physical and mental benefits of even a brief getaway,” said David Posen, stress specialist and author of Is Work Killing You? “Vacations can lower blood pressure and ease stress and tension in the body.

“They give us the time to reconnect with spouses, partners, family members and friends and we return to work rejuvenated and with the ability to maintain focus — and all of that translates into stronger feelings of well-being. Vacations are a prescription for health, stress relief, more energy, improved productivity and overall happiness.” 

Not surprisingly, the post-vacation numbers shift drastically. Ninety-three per cent of Canadians reported feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after their time away, while 87 per cent felt closer to their partners and family. 

Also noteworthy is that 78 per cent of respondents felt more focused at work — a benefit for their employers as well.

How to encourage vacations
As HR professionals, there are a number of ways to encourage employees to take much-needed vacation time:

•Send reminders: Sometimes, responsibilities at work get in the way and employees need to be reminded they still have vacation time available. Sending simple reminders to those who may have forgotten is an easy way to encourage time off from work.

•Encourage email- and phone-free vacations: Encouraging offline vacations will allow workers to feel guilt-free while away. An environment where employees feel rested and rejuvenated relates to more focused work and job satisfaction upon their return.

•Lead by example: Company culture is important. Creating an environment where all employees feel comfortable taking time off will ensure they use their well-deserved vacation. That means managers should also “walk the talk” and use up their vacation allotment as an example to employees.

Sean Shannon is managing director of Expedia Canada. For more information, visit www.expedia.ca.

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