Topic: Burnout, Wellness, Work-Life Balance
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (JAN 2011)
Article: How long do you benefit from vacation? A closer look at the fade-out of vacation effects
Authors: J. Kuhnel and S. Sonnentag
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger
We all look forward to vacations and other extended breaks from our hectic work schedules, and fortunately, the case is building for the importance of these hiatuses from work. Research suggests that because normal work demands drain our limited physical and mental resources, employees need sufficient time to recharge their batteries if they are to operate at full capacity on the job.
Research by Kuhnel and Sonnentag (2011) shows that vacation time can positively impact employees’ psychological well-being when they return to the job. In their study of German teachers, vacation time was favorably related to work engagement and burnout after returning to work. In other words, after returning from vacation, teachers tended to report high levels of work engagement and low levels of burnout. The benefits of vacation time, however, dropped off after about one month back on the job.
But why exactly do the benefits of vacations wear off over time? The authors found that job demands (e.g., student behavior problems, time pressures in this particular study) counteract the positive benefits of vacation time over time. Said another way, while vacations help us recharge our batteries, job demands begin to take their toll and drain our limited resources after some time back on the job. However, the authors found that experiencing leisure time following vacation helps preserve the positive effects of vacation on employee well-being.
Results such as these highlight the importance of taking vacation time.
Employees and organizations may stress the importance of taking an occasional vacation from work in lieu of financial or other rewards for not taking time off. It’s easy to see how the opportunity to recoup one’s physical and mental resources can be important for employee well-being, but from an organization’s perspective, this can ultimately impact employees’ performance on the job (e.g., increased work engagement can lead to increased productivity and OCBs). Ultimately, this research provides support for taking vacation time and recharging our batteries. So next time you’re debating whether to take vacation time or save it for an extra monetary reward etc., consider taking the former…and your organization may even thank you for it!