Whether it be kicking it up on a 60ft yacht cruising the Adriatic coastline or sauntering the eastern beaches of the Coromandel, we can only attest to how fantastic it is to revel in the joy of being on vacation. Vacations replenish resources drained by the often unsympathetic demands of the working life, and more importantly, give us a chance to reflect. What is more, vacations can improve well-being, reduce stress, and improve long-term performance. This sounds just great, but for how long do the effects last?
A recent study investigated this very question. Immediately following the participant’s holiday, emotional exhaustion was shown to decrease, and work engagement—our sense of vigour, dedication, enthusiasm, and mental toughness—was shown to increase. But we expected that. What we want to know: how long did the effects last? Unfortunately, as most of you may very well relate to, the beneficial effects of the vacation—for the vast majority of the participants—began fading within a mere week of the participants returning to the nine-to-five, had significantly declined after two weeks, and had virtually disappeared after four weeks. Sound about right?
Holding their heads high, the authors accepted this reality, and asked: but what of those who the euphoria of their holiday lasted longer? What were those people doing differently? Or what was different in their environments that could account for these differences? After controlling for relevant variables, they found the following factors had the biggest influence on the length of the post-vacation ‘high’:
- Avoiding any negative work-related ruminations during the vacation, e.g., “I can’t stand that know-it-all Sally down in marketing”
- Having sufficient job resources available upon return to work, e.g., supportive co-workers to bring you up to speed on the job-related happenings, sufficient staffing to ensure a fair amount of ‘backed-up’ work
- Practising daily relaxation, e.g., quiet reflection, yoga, exercise
- Scheduling and ensuring personal leisure time, e.g., walking, hobbies, and socialising
- Keeping the holiday in mind! Pictures, memories, stories!
So what can we take from this? Well, the follow-on effects of a holiday generally don’t last very long. Won’t be any surprises there for most of you. But on the lighter side, this research suggests that there are tactics and behaviours that you can adopt that may keep alive that feeling of frivolity, peace, excitement, or whatever it is that you look for in a vacation.
Chin up, I’m sure the next one isn’t far away!
Kuhnel, J., & Sonnentag, S. (2011). “How long do you benefit from vacation? A closer look at the fade-out of vacation effects.” Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32. 125-143.
This post was originally written by OPRA Alumni Andy McInnes.