Taking That Vacation Could Help Your Career


Jack Zenger, Contributor

July 3, 2015

In a recent conversation with an HR VP in Amsterdam, the topic of vacation time came up. We were having difficulty getting a summer meeting scheduled with this global company because of the number of executives on vacation, as the number of vacation days for European executives is significantly higher than in the US. After some frustration in finding a date, the HR vice president remarked, “I am confidant that because of the rest and break from work that our European Executives get more accomplished in their working days than those in the US who burn themselves out.” Intrigued, we decided his assertion was worthy of some research.

In a dataset we shared in Harvard Business Review of 2,310 respondents, we looked at data from the 20 countries with the most paid vacation days (247 respondents) and compared them to respondents in the United States (1,151). The 20 countries ranged from Australia, with 28 days allotted, to Sweden and Brazil, with 41 days. We asked respondents to complete an assessment that measured their preference for working at a slow or fast pace. (You can take this assessment yourself by clicking HERE.) Granted, our sampling for this research was not large. But when we tested the differences between these groups for speed, quantity focus and impatience we came upon an intriguing result. We found that leaders in countries with more paid vacation days work at a faster pace, have a higher quantity focus and are more impatient. These differences were statistically significant. The graph below shows the results from the two groups.

We also asked respondents the following question, “If I were able to move faster, could I become more effective?” Respondents from countries with higher paid vacation days responded significantly more positively to this thought.
Do More Vacation Reduce Employee Stress?

Some people believe that more vacation would have a positive beneficial effect on health. That may be true for some, but for many others the work simply piles up on vacation and requires significant effort to catch up upon the individual’s return. We asked employees if they generally felt “overwhelmed with too much to do” or If they “had things under control.” While there was not a significant difference between those with the most vacation and those with the least, 26% of those with the most vacation felt overwhelmed.
There is No Free Lunch

It appears from this data that employees in countries that take more vacation do have a strong desire and a tendency to move faster. While the work does not go away when executives go on vacation, there is evidence to suggest the rest and relaxation vacation provides actually does make executives more effective during the rest of the year. In other words, it’s not that taking a break will refresh your brain and let you get more done; it’s that simply spending less time at your desk forces you to waste less time.

10 Companies With Innovative Vacation Policies

This article was written by Jack Zenger from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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