Can employees “really” go off on vacation?

Turn off your smartphone, set an automatic vacation email and turn off your computer. For some employees, being able to go off on holiday is more a dream than a true reality.

At least this is what the results of a recent survey found, sponsored by the Accountemps recruitment firm. Among 400 Canadian workers interviewed, 33% said they usually keep up with the news from the office at least once or twice a week while on vacation; a decrease of only 3% since 2016.

However, more than half of workers admitted needing more time to relax. Also, 26% of employees surveyed said they were considering taking more days off. There seems to be a paradox between the desire to rest and the inability to turn off. 

Inability to turn off

Among the reasons given, the need to be reassured that everything is going well ranks first at 55%. Then comes the desire to move projects forward (51%), avoiding excessive work upon returning (47%) and avoiding additional stress for colleagues (25%).

“There are those who feel guilty about taking a vacation and sometimes organizations accentuate this feeling. In other cases, vacations are somehow a punishment. The person knows that when she returns, the work will have built up and there will be a greater workload,” explains Luc Brunet, professor in the psychology department at the Université de Montréal. The trend is omnipresent among 35-55 year olds. “It’s been a long time that they have been at the service of the company, there is a duty of loyalty which is built in to their way of operating. So they find it more difficult to switch off,” says the professor. 

This is especially true with the development of new technologies that have given rise to the new social phenomena called “digital stress”. The employee can now be reached at any time and must constantly be faced with a flow of information. “For people who are cyber-dependent, it accentuates the possibility of being hooked on work,” notes Mr. Brunet. 

The individual can feel the need of responding on the spot, forgetting that the work is intruding in his family and private life. Over time, it gets closer to burnout, and his productivity is diminished.

The need to recharge

Many specialists agree that everyone should take a break from time to time. “There is a limit to how much one can give in the way of physical and psychological energy to work,” Luc Brunet believes. 

To know how many days on average is needed to really be able to unwind, the professor is unable to say. “One day of stress is not recovered by one day of rest. It takes more than that. The more stressful the work is, the more it takes to be able to rest,” he says. 

In an era when everyone is hyperconnected, it goes without saying that the holidays begin by setting aside your mobile phone. But according to Luc Brunet, it’s also the company culture that must change…  by granting rest time to its employees and refusing to contact them when they are on holiday. 

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