North American workers are notoriously bad at taking vacations. It seems ridiculous on its merits - who doesn’t dream of taking picturesque trips with friends and family members to someplace new?
The problem is that for most people, it is little more than a dream. Instead of actually taking a break from busy work schedules, most workers simply hang calendars of exotic locations in their cubicles and leave their vacation days to pile up. It is well known that not only is taking vacation good for you, it can actually improve your productivity.
Canadian workers rank low in the global scale for days off, receiving 10 business days off annually. The top countries for allotting time off are in Europe, many of which offer over 20 days off annually. Are there any examples of high achievers who still manage to be productive? We’re glad you asked.
Perhaps one of the most iconic supporters of taking time off, Branson practices what he preaches. The Virgin Group founder is known for his savvy approach to business and his entrepreneurial approach to work. However, he is also known for prioritizing vacation times with his family. Called his “Inspiration Vacations”, he believes that if you don’t come back from a vacation feeling refreshed and inspired, you aren’t doing it right.
Founder of Microsoft, Gates takes two weeks off every year for his “Think Weeks” retreats. These trips allow him to pull back from the day-to-day operations and evaluate the trajectory of his company. The change in scenery and pace is helpful to recharge his enthusiasm for work, according to Gates.
The former CEO of Yahoo keeps herself refueled by taking a week off every quarter. She reports that this focus on stepping away from work helps her to stay on pace.
The Benefits of Vacation?
Taking even a short break from work responsibilities allows you to rest and recharge. Whether you take a sightseeing tour or just relax at home, the change of pace allows you to take a break from the pace at work. In fact, 64% of people who take vacations report that they come back to work rested and ready to tackle their responsibilities.
It may seem counterintuitive, but time off actually increases productivity. The countries with the highest number of days off (all of which are in Europe) all have high productivity rates. 9 of the top 10 countries for productivity are in Europe, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
68% of people who work at companies that encourage vacations are happier and more satisfied with their jobs than their counterparts. They are also more likely to use all of their vacation time than those individuals who work at a company where vacation time usage is prioritized.
Leaders who want to help their employees recharge and refocus can encourage the use of vacation days by leading by example. Take vacations and unplug from the office regularly. Even short breaks can offer big rewards - suggest employees take long weekends if they are unable to take longer breaks and don’t require employees to work on their “off time”. Your employees and the company will benefit!
Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing Agency and My Big Idea®. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.