Around our office, staff members are squeezing in a few last summer vacation days before a new school year begins and other personal obligations intensify in advance of the fall conferences.
If this sounds like your workplace, too, then you’ll be pleased to learn that employees believe that time away from work has positive effects for them, from a better mood (68%) to more energy (66%) and motivation (57%) to feeling less stressed (57%). Respondents to the American Psychological Association’s 2018 Work and Well-Being survey — conducted online by the Harris Poll among 1,512 employed U.S. adults earlier this year — also reported feeling more productive (58%) and that their work quality was better (55%) after time off.
The bad news is that 24% of respondents said that those positive effects disappear immediately upon returning to work, and 40% said the benefits last only a few days.
“People need time off from work to recover from stress and prevent burnout, but employers shouldn’t rely on the occasional vacation to offset a stressful work environment,” David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, who leads the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, said in a statement. “Unless they address the organizational factors causing stress and promote ongoing stress management efforts, the benefits of time off can be fleeting.”
Fortunately, according to the APA, opportunities abound for employers to help their workers, and thereby their organizations, extend the benefits of vacation.
“A supportive culture and supervisor, the availability of adequate paid time off, effective work-life policies and practices, and psychological issues like trust and fairness all play a major role in how employees achieve maximum recharge,” Ballard said. “Much of that message comes from the top, but a culture that supports time off is woven throughout all aspects of the workplace.”
So how do employers measure up?
Only 41% of survey respondents said they believe that their organization’s culture encourages employees to take time off, and only 38% said their supervisor encourages taking time off.
Also, 35% percent of respondents reported experiencing chronic stress during the workday, and just 41% said their employers provide sufficient resources to help employees manage stress. Low salaries, lack of opportunity for growth or advancement, workloads that are too heavy, unrealistic job expectations and long hours were the most commonly cited sources of work stress.
And just 50% of workers said their employers provide the resources necessary to help them meet their mental health needs.
So as the new school year begins, perhaps your homework assignment can be to think about the weak spots in your organization’s culture and practices, and what you can do about them to support employee mood, energy, motivation, productivity and work quality. Your organization will reap the rewards, too.