Does More Time Off Makes Us More Productive?
Most Americans take some time off during the summer, and I’m no exception. Most years I take a staycation. But, in 2013 and again in 2015, I was blessed where I could take my family to Europe. Since I would have no access to phone or email, I had to wrap up all loose ends prior to my vacation so my co-workers wouldn’t have to deal with any messes while I was away.
Those weeks leading up to my vacation turned out to be some of my most productive weeks. Essentially, I had accomplished more work in less time. So, I began to ponder if it was possible to work fewer hours and actually be more productive.
Europeans certainly get more vacation than Americans. By law, every country in the European Union has a minimum annual entitlement of four weeks’ vacation in addition to bank and public holidays. In stark contrast, the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have statutory requirements on employers to provide paid vacation, holiday, or sick days. Most U.S. companies, of course, do provide vacation as a way to attract and retain workers. When companies do give vacation time; however, it averages only 10 days a year.
In the U.S., our culture believes, at its core, that the harder we work, the more we will succeed. But, there’s actually no proof that working harder and not taking time off leads to greater success.
The truth, in fact, is that vacations are necessary to our well-being and performance. Taking regular breaks from work greatly improves productivity while skipping vacation often leads to stress and exhaustion. This is why vacations from work are important. Our brains and body need time to recharge. Rest, relaxation and stress reduction are important for people’s well-being and health. Therefore, vacations are necessary for mental and physical health and, in turn, productivity.
Americans need to reassess their perceptions surrounding the relationship between time spent working and productivity. In turn, they will find that they’re healthier, happier and better at their jobs.
Why do Europeans and Americans differ so much in their attitude toward work and vacation? I feel that it comes down to culture. Europeans have a fuller appreciation that life is to be enjoyed. Work is a means to an end, not an end in itself. In stark contrast, Americans are more materialistic and values stuff such as their big homes and cars more than they value time. We all have to pay the bills. But, life will slip past you if you’re not careful. There is a world to be explored beyond your place of work.
Based on my previous experience, I think that awarding more vacation in order to boost productivity just might work. It’s time to start planning my next vacation.