So the summer is upon us, kids away from school and we are all looking forward to our time away from work. For working adults the one or two weeks (or even more if you are lucky) it’s time away from the daily working routine. The big question then is are you and your work ready for your summer holiday?
Not surprisingly there is a quite a lot research from different areas of psychology on how to manage your workload before the holiday. Studies suggest that there are distinct stages of holiday mood & satisfaction. However, this largely depends upon our experiences and the way we perceive the break prior to travelling. Needless to say, the travel industry want us all to have great experiences on holiday rather than bad. We all want those lazy hazy days of summer to live long in the memory for all the right reasons. Therefore helping us make similar choices for the next year.
The Psychology of your Holiday
Now for the psychology stuff. Nawijn, J. (2010) found with international tourists in the Netherlands that they experienced a “holiday happiness curve”. The average mood on holiday was generally high, though “mood was somewhat lower among people who were in the first travel phase of about 10% of the holiday duration. Mood was highest during the core phase, which covers about 70% of the holiday time. Mood then declines slightly, but increases during the last part of the holiday” (Nawijn, J. 2010).
Therefore, the first part of the trip is unsurprisingly most stressful for the family. Mainly due to travel arrangements. However if the holiday has been restful we tend to experience a “rejuvenation phase”. Making the thought of packing up after the lovely time away less onerous when it comes to pack up for going home and back to work. Indeed he Nawijn, J. (2010) study went on to report that a holiday duration of 3-6 days significantly improved happiness levels as opposed to a shorter two day break.
So perhaps the weekend away may seem like a good idea, but may well scupper any long term effects upon happiness from the trip when returning to work. Its an interesting thought that the stress of the travel at both ends of the weekend away is a problem. The theory suggests with less time in the “core phase”, the short break may do more harm than good for the individual. So in principle the key message is the more time you have actually at your holiday location seems to be the most pleasurable for all concerned.
Health & Well-being
Perhaps the most beneficial areas for our holidays is our health & well-being. Apart from the phenomena of “leisure sickness” where some of us are affected by the changes of routine, disrupted sleep, amount of alcohol consumed, more or less coffee for example. Time away has been shown to reduce the likelihood of a number of health and well-being related problems. Though not necessarily so for those with existing conditions (remember the issues to travel stress).
Indeed Fritz (2006) suggests that we generally feeling healthier following a holiday and that our work tasks on our return can feel less effortful. However this effect fades rapidly if there is a mountain of work to go back to. So a simple plan to help your return to work following a holiday – try to avoid a backlog of work. Probably easier said than done of course.
Try to ensure that people who are likely to contact you by email at work are aware of your absence and that emails will not be answered whilst away. You are on holiday after all.
Ditch the Phone
Intensive smart phone use during evening hours can hamper that holiday balance, by reducing the possibility of getting down to the beach or other activities that provide a sense of work disengagement. This disengagement helps to restore and recharge those all important work/life batteries. This uncoupling from work during time away acts as a buffer between those full-on job demands and a sense psychological “ill-being”. Thus helping you with your resilience and putting the day-to-day stresses and strains into context.
Working on Holiday is fine if you enjoy it
I am sure there are many that enjoy keeping up with work for various reasons. Employees that have control over whether to engage in work-related activities then disengagement from work is not so much of a problem. It depends upon the type of tasks they pursue and the when they start and stop these tasks. It seems to be crucial that workers have the feeling of control. Moreover that they can freely decide which, if any work related activities, to pursue during holiday time; and how much pleasure they experience while performing this activity. So it’s not that you do not engage with any work activity its what you do and if you enjoy it that counts (Fritz 2006). Not what you do but how you do it.
Clearly, there is enough evidence to suggest the summer holiday is valuable to help dissipate the day-to-day stresses and strains in the workplace. Evidence suggests that a time away boosts health and well-being and with associated positively affects with your work performance. If only temporarily.
Holiday time allow us to reconnect with friends and family, and perhaps put other aspects of our working lives into more perspective. Instead of pondering where to go, how long and what to do when there, focus on the things that really matter. Try a smooth stress less start to the holiday, create the space to disengage from everyday work related worries. Holidays help us to engage in jobs from work you like to do so you can enjoy the freedom during the time away. Lastly, make it a memorable end to the holiday period and with a gradual and staged return to your work.
Though the effects do fade rapidly if care is not taken to plan your return to work from your break. Perhaps this may give you the ammunition to ask your boss for more holidays to improve health, happiness and increase work performance………….certainly worth a try at least. Happy holidays everyone.
Nawijn, J. (2010) The holiday happiness curve: a preliminary investigation into mood during a holiday abroad. International Journal of Tourism Research, 12(3), 281-290.
Fritz, C. & Sonnentag, S. (2006). Recovery, well-being, and performance-related outcomes: The role of workload and vacation experiences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 936-945