The positive effects of taking a vacation vanish within days, survey findings show.

Experts from the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence have analysed employee wellbeing and attitudes and opinions related to workplace policies and practices as part of a new poll involving over 1,500 adults across the United States.

One of the most striking findings was that taking time off helped the majority of workers recover from stress, but for nearly two-thirds of working adults, the benefits of time away dissipated within a few days.

“People need time off from work to recover from stress and prevent burnout,” said the organisation’s David W. Ballard. “But employers shouldn’t rely on the occasional vacation to offset a stressful work environment. Unless they address the organisational factors causing stress and promote ongoing stress management efforts, the benefits of time off can be fleeting. When stress levels spike again shortly after employees return to work, that’s bad for workers and for business. Employers can do better.”

The majority of working adults reported positive effects of taking vacation time and stated that when they return to work their mood is more positive and they have more energy and motivation.

Additionally, working adults reported that, following time off, they were more productive and their work quality was better.

In spite of this finding, about one in five said they feel tense or stressed out while on vacation, more than a quarter said they wind up working more than they planned to and 42 per cent reported that they dread returning to work.

“Websites and magazine articles offer plenty of tips on how to make the most of time out of the office, but often put the onus on the individual employee and ignore important organisational factors. 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,” added Ballard. “Much of that message comes from the top, but a culture that supports time off is woven throughout all aspects of the workplace.”

Full survey results have been published by the American Psychological Association.

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