There are few things in this world more intoxicating than a good, old-fashioned holiday. That sense of anticipation as you book your ticket, the child-like excitement as you set foot in an unexplored land, the soothing sensation of being far removed from the humdrum of everyday life – it doesn’t get much better than that.
Yet despite the undeniable allure of a time out, studies suggest that as many as a third of workers opt not to take their full holiday allocation each year. Yes you read right – for many of us, boardrooms trump board shorts the vast majority of the time.
So what’s deterring us from shutting down our laptops and enjoying a well-deserved break from time to time? Is it the prospect of the unfamiliar? The smell of sunscreen? Turns out most of us avoid holidays simply because we’re too anxious to leave our desks for a prolonged period.
A recent study by Travelsupermarket.com revealed that as many as 28% of employees opt to forgo vacation days due to pressures at work, whilst a further 12% indicated that they felt guilty about absconding their duties. Yep, it seems we’ve gotten it into our heads that holidaying is bad for business. But we couldn’t be more wrong.
As it turns out, holidaying isn’t just good for your soul, but it’s good for productivity too. Just ask the Germans. Despite an average working year of just 1,408 hours (the second lowest in Europe), Germany’s economy is powering ahead, faring bar better than its Greek counterparts for example, despite its citizens toiling away for over 2,000 hours annually.
The bottom line is this: we all NEED to get away from time to time, both physically and mentally. Sure, taking time off might result in a bit of a holiday hangover and an overflowing inbox, but these are minor concerns when compared to the long-term ramifications stress can have on the body. And remember this: a burnt-out, sick employee is of far less use to anyone than a revitalized, relaxed one. So check your guilt at the door and start planning your next break. It’s not just your right, but your responsibility.
Here’s how to make the most of your next break, and ensure that you return more positive and productive than ever:
Lengthen that long weekend
Many of us suffer from long-weekend syndrome, planning only brief getaways so as to minimize time away from work. But given the fact that we need at least four days to truly unwind, these fleeting getaways in fact offer very little in the way of long-term benefits. If you want to return feeling really refreshed and motivated, make sure to extend that break a bit – a getaway of between 7 and 10 days should do the trick.
Leave the laptop at home
In the connected world we live in, it’s increasingly difficult to properly ‘switch off’, and many an ardent workaholic has been known to sneak a peek at their inbox from time to time, just so as to avoid the trauma of encountering hundreds of unread messages upon return. But what you might perceive as stress management is actually heightening your overall anxiety, and inhibiting your ability to truly unwind. So ditch the devices and go off the grid if you want to reap the benefits of your holiday – the world will keep spinning without you.
Heading off on a holiday with loose ends still untied is not a good way to shake off the shackles of stress. So, even if it means working late and toiling over weekends, do your best to ensure that you’ve done everything in your power to get ahead of the game before setting off. Safe in the knowledge that things are on track and that your colleagues have been thoroughly briefed, you’ll be far more likely to unwind and return with fresh perspective and purpose.
Try to avoid making the mistake of treating your holiday like a working day, drawing up to-do lists and rigorous schedules that leave you exhausted by the time you get home. Hurtling around foreign cities and rampantly sight-seeing can fell even the strongest of us, so while we’re not suggesting you spend every holiday prostrate on the beach, we do advise that you make time for down-time if you want to return feeling revitalized.