Fight Fatigue Next Weekend
06 September 2018

Short breaks – healthy work habits - employee wellbeing

Fatigue is not only bad for people, it’s also bad for business. Give yourself a break (literally) and take some time out. One way to reboot is to have a holiday. It doesn’t have to be a long one to get real benefit. Last year I got married. As usual business was busy so my husband and I had a “mini-moon”. Just four days in Seville. But we absolutely packed in load and loved it. In our four days we walked miles exploring the city, visited the most important tourist attractions, discovered all sorts of unrecorded little corners, sampled plenty of rioja, ate tapas, went to markets, listened to flamenco and generally had loads of fun. It was fantastic and we both came back fizzing with energy. So although our schedule sounds exhausting – actually it had quite the opposite effect.

Now that the children are heading back to school and the first jokes about putting on the sprouts for Christmas are starting, there’s no doubting it; summer is behind us and the next holiday seems a long way away. What a miserable thought…..

Many people spend all year longing for and waiting for their holidays. Holidays are a great opportunity to relax, have fun, and reset before returning to normal life. They boost well-being, relieve stress, and help you recharge before going back to work in a way that positively impacts your health by way of reducing your risk of heart attacks and depression. In addition, holidays are credited with improving work performance and creativity.

Some interesting research carried out in 2013 by De Bloom, J., Geurts, S.A.E., & Kompier, M.A.J.* suggests that health and well-being rapidly increase when the holiday starts, peaking on the eighth day. This means that while taking holidays is good for us, rather than taking the traditional two week holiday, we might enjoy and benefit more from shorter, more frequent breaks.

When you come back from a holiday you often feel its positive effects. Unfortunately, these tend to fade fairly quickly once you’re back at work so it makes sense to try and take more short breaks rather than fewer longer breaks.

In the last few years UK holiday-goers seem to be developing a taste for shorter breaks. A review of travel trends since the mid-1990s by the Office for National Statistics in 2017 highlighted a dramatic rise in the number of short breaks taken by Brits. In 2016, they went on more than 45 million foreign holidays, up from 27 million in 1996. That was a 68% increase, while the UK population rose by 12% in the same period. The ONS also found that seven and ten day holidays had become more popular than 14-day breaks.
Try planning in a few long weekends if you’re feeling a bit jaded. Three or four days don’t eat into your holiday allowance too much but can be as refreshing as a ten day break. To make the trip as relaxing as possible, take time off on Friday so you can pack, travel, and do a few holiday-type things before calling it a night. That still leaves you with two days to explore the area. If you get home by late afternoon on Sunday, you can unpack and get the house in order without having that breakneck rush. There may be a few more e-mails than normal to process on Monday, but other than that, your mini-break shouldn’t create too many work problems.

Long weekends mean you:

  • have something to look forward to all week.
  • get a chance to explore something new.
  • learn something new about life.
  • have a great sense of well-being (after a great weekend Monday doesn’t seem that bad)
  • are likely to be more productive

The same rules apply when you’re managing a team. If your staff aren’t taking their holiday, they may not be getting the downtime they need. At best they’ll get stale and tired. At worst they may become ill. Encourage them to take a break so they can rest, have fun and come back full of energy.
* De Bloom, J., Geurts, S.A.E., & Kompier, M.A.J. (2013). Vacation (after-) effects on employee’ health and well-being, and the role of vacation activities, experiences and sleep. Journal of Happiness Studies.

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2022 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.