Gloria Chen, the chief human resources officer for the technology company Adobe, said that the company’s leadership team realized that people were not using their vacation days during the pandemic because they could not travel and there were fewer activities available. In focus groups, employees, said that what would really make a difference was having regular global days off. In response, last year Adobe decided to give the entire company a day off every third Friday. This year, Adobe has a global day off one Friday per month.
“Even if you’re not able to take vacation and travel somewhere, being able to have a long weekend was something really big from an emotional well-being standpoint,” she said.
Long hours are not the only cause of burnout. Studies have shown that factors including fairness, such as when recognition goes to an undeserving person, can also contribute to it, Dr. Maslach said. Discrimination can be a factor, such as when promotions do not go to the most qualified employees. She added that employers should ask themselves: What does it say about work that the best thing employers can do is give employees time away from it? Companies need to view burnout not as a condition that affects individual workers, but as a condition caused by the environment at the company, she said.
How to make the most of a vacation
While burnout may be best reduced by changes to the workplace, in many cases the task will fall on individual employees. If you have vacation time to take, here’s how to make it as restorative as possible.
Work in some low-effort activities. They are linked with lower burnout after the vacation ends, said Charlotte Fritz, an associate professor in industrial and organizational psychology at Portland State University. “In addition, activities that include mastery, learning and broadening one’s horizons are beneficial as well.”
Compromise, but not too much. It can be one of the most stressful parts of vacationing. But according to Jeroen Nawijn, a tourism researcher at the Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, research shows it’s worth it. “It is important to allow each person a large degree of autonomy in choosing vacation activities,” he said. “Yet, social bonding is a key ingredient to holiday happiness, so I would say that to get the balance right is the main challenge for us all.”
Set an out-of-office message, and don’t read work emails. You could try an out-of-office message like this one from Dr. de Bloom, the vacation researcher: “I am currently on vacation. Research shows that working during vacations can be detrimental for my health and well-being (De Bloom, Geurts & Kompier, 2012). Therefore, I will check my emails very rarely and mentally detach from my work (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2014).”