Employees are more productive, energised and creative after a longer break from work, although not necessarily more rested

Many of us would have taken advantage of the seasonal holidays to enjoy an extended break from the office, but will we be more productive and energised as we return to our working routines this week? A study of US workers has highlighted that longer breaks from work do mean return more productive, energised and creative, although not necessarily more rested.

The US may be one of a small number of countries that don’t federally mandate a set number of days off from work, and a majority of American employees with paid time off will leave hours unused at the end of the year, but it is clear that taking a break away from the stresses of the work environment is beneficial, even if there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

The findings from the survey of just over 1,007 employed people who had taken a vacation in the last year by Sleep Judge, a reviewer of mattresses and other sleep-related products, affords some insights into the impact of work breaks on employee health.

For many, the opportunity to break free of the work environment is essential, but the survey found that many Americans feel dread at the idea of getting away from the office because they’re likely to fall behind at work or because their boss might judge them for leaving at all – around one in three employees even said their workplace culture didn’t encourage the use of holiday days.

For those that are able to escape the office, there is still concern about being away for too long. The survey found that this was more common among younger generations of employees with nearly half of those polled overall believing there was such a thing as taking too long a break. In total, 50% of millennials agreed there was a limit to how much time they should take off, and another 40% suggested they were more ready to return to work after a short time away than a longer vacation.

It’s easy to suggest that taking time off is good for your health, but how this impacts rest, productivity, creativity, and energy can be different, according to the survey. However, overall, with just the exception of feeling rested, breaks lasting between 11 and 15 days were ideal for putting employees in the best physical and emotional states before returning to work.

In addition to 76% saying they felt energised after an 11- to 15-day vacation, 65% felt more productive than before vacation, and 56% felt creative. Longer vacations also left employees more ready to go back to work compared to taking just one or two days off, where more than half of people were only a little or not at all ready to return to the grind, according to the findings.

Still, not all extended travel is without pressure. Employees were the most rested (70%) after taking a six- to 10-day vacation or even just one or two days (69%), compared to three to five days (59%) and 11 to 15 days (68%). International travel typically left employees the most prepared to face work again, followed by domestic vacations and staycations.

But, with increasing pressures of work, do we now genuinely ever have a day off. Even away from the office we appear to feel pressured to keep on top of business affairs. The survey shows around one in four (27%) employees checked their emails and responded to work emergencies, another 8% worked a few hours each day, and another 8% worked just a few hours in total.

It is clear that in today’s connected world that for many, it’s important to find a balance between staying engaged with work and being able to de-stress and recharge. Those surveyed said they typically felt more rested when they avoided work, but reported feeling equally energised either way. However, respondents felt more creative and productive when they did some work while away.

While spending too much time working while away from the office can hinder the perks of getting away, checking email from time to time might actually help us feel more productive or energised when we get back to work.

Regardless of whether we are rested, more productive, energised and creative, many of us will be returning to work with an element trepidation. The Blue Swan Daily reported last week that as many as one in five business travellers is already worrying about future travel plans. The insights secured from polling specialist You Gov for business travel management company NexTravel adds further weight to the health and wellbeing debate in corporate travel.

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