Vacation deprivation is a real problem – here’s why it matters

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Many workers around the world are vacation-deprived, and it’s not ideal. Source: Joshua Earle/Unsplash

FOR a long while, vacation time has been a treasured perk in workplaces around the world. But for a growing number of employees, the combination of an “always-on” work culture and greater connectivity is causing many to remote work during time-off or even sacrifice it altogether.

The problem, coined “vacation deprivation,” is documented each year by Expedia. Their latest study covered 28 counties across four continents and included over 9,000 participants.

Among those surveyed, workers in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand had some of the highest feelings of vacation deprivation. Of these, only those in Hong Kong took their full holiday entitlement, with the others leaving between one and five days unused.

But the problem runs much deeper. Even when planned in advance, employees can struggle to get away. Research undertaken by Korn Ferry, found 88 percent of the 1,600 professionals they questioned, had either cut short or canceled a vacation because of work pressures.

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Of those that took time off, most still connected to work once daily (41 percent) or multiple times a day (34 percent).

“Technology has made it easy for professionals and executives to sneak in a quick check-in with the office,” Mark Royal, Senior Principal at the Korn Ferry Hay Group, was quoted in the survey news release.

Yet for the respondents, “getting pulled into critical issues” was the most cited reason for working while on vacation, followed by having too much to do or concerns of an increased workload on their return.

None too surprisingly then, this perpetual connection to the office has its costs.

Strained relationships

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Interrupted holidays can cause strained relationships. Source: Shutterstock

When work intrudes on an employee’s private life, often it is the relationships with their nearest and dearest that suffer first. This is echoed in the data collected by Korn Ferry, with half the participants admitting they argue with a spouse or partner about working while on holiday.

But it is not just intimate relationships at stake.

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A report compiled by Project: Time-Off – a coalition of like-minded organizations that promote the value of downtime – found missed or interrupted holidays had a measurable impact on children. In particular, how they dealt with stress and feelings of disappointment.

It can also affect the parent-child bond itself.

“On vacation, deep things come up, like the insecurity our kids feel at school,” said Michael Gurian, an expert quoted in the research. “Doing things together gives that sense of bonding and attachment that feeds the rest of the year,” he added.

Compromised health

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A holiday is great for both your mental and physical well-being. Source: Pixabay

Without sufficient time away from work, employees run the risk of damaging their physical and mental wellbeing too.

Significantly, holidays appear to make a marked difference to cardiovascular health. Writing on his website, Dr. Stephen Sinatra claims to see more heart attack cases in both men and women that do not take regular vacations compared to those that do – something he says supports the findings in both the Framingham Heart Study and the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT).

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Elsewhere, research suggests that for compulsive workers, vacation time is necessary for respite from “daily stressors” and rumination. Other studies too observe a correlation between levels of relaxation and detachment while on holiday and better health and well-being in employees on and past their return.

Faced with such overwhelming evidence, it seems then that professionals and employers a like need re-evaluate vacations and take into account the necessity for regular, uninterrupted downtime for good health and strong relationships.