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Holiday time: Because you need it

Holiday time: Because you need it

“It’s so quiet.

“What’s wrong? Why am I getting so few emails? Is something wrong with the mail server? Has my account been hacked?

“Where is everyone? This is not good….”

Yes, it is. It’s August. Northern hemisphere summertime. Which means for a part of the world it is time to switch off. Fully off. The same is the case in other parts of the world, at other times of the year, as periods of time set aside for school holidays, religious and/or cultural festivals inspire periods of hush.

Easier said than done. In today’s tech-driven world, handheld devices have become appendages to human anatomy. Attention is ever-shifting, fingers are ever-clicking, the state of business busyness ever-buzzing. The line between work and play has not been blurred, it has been erased. The concept of balance is increasingly about the blend. And the feeling of being valued is increasingly about inbox volume.

Which is why prolonged periods without pings can make one feel, well, forgotten.

What is actually forgotten, however, is that taking time off is not purely play at the cost of work. Rather it is play for the benefit of work.


The benefits of taking advantage of time off trends and traditions to hit the personal pause button go far, far beyond the obvious, short-term pleasures of rest and relaxation. Research into the concrete, quantitative benefits of holiday time when returning to the office clearly reveal the positive impact of holidays on productivity back in the workplace.

Case in point: findings of a 2013 study conducted by Kuoni Travel and Nuffield Health.

Methodology: “We took 12 people and gave them full health assessments and psychological tests. We also asked them to wear heart monitors. We gave them lifestyle and dietary advice. We then sent half the group on holidays to either Thailand, Peru or the Maldives. The other half of the group stayed at home. Two weeks after the holidaymakers returned, both groups had more medicals, psychological tests and wore heart monitors for several days.”

Results: “Our study showed that the holidaymakers’ ability to recover from stress, their sleep quality and their blood pressures were significantly improved compared with the group who had not had a holiday.

• Resilience to Stress: The holidaymakers’ ability to recover from stress improved by 29 percent while that of the group that did not travel went down by 71 percent.

• Sleep: The holidaymakers’ sleep quality improved by 34 points. Stay-at-homers’ slumped 27 points.

• Blood Pressure: Having a holiday resulted in an average blood pressure reduction in the holidaymakers’ group of six percent. In comparison the average blood pressure of the people who didn’t have a holiday went up by two percent.

• Stress can result in blood pressure rises leading to increased risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Other holidaymaker improvements included:

• Decreases in blood glucose levels, reducing risk of diabetes.

• Improved body shape (losing weight around their middles) which may lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.

• Improved energy levels and mood.”

(Source: Kuoni The Holiday Health Experiment)

Of all of the outcomes, the stated improvement of “Improved energy levels and mood” is, for many, the most valuable. Why? Because of one dimension of personal wellness that holidays are able to immediately address, and on which a vital decrease occurs: guilt – guilt from spending too much time focusing on everything but the ones that have the closest connection to our heart-health and happiness.

As actively championed by US-based Roger Dow, one of the global Travel & Tourism (T&T) community’s greatest advocates, the cost of not taking time off cannot and must not be overlooked. As President and CEO of Washington DC-based U.S. Travel Association, his organization is on the front line of measurement of the greater impact of the collective T&T industry in the US where T&T generates an estimated $2.4 trillion in economic output and supports 15.6 million jobs.

Dow firmly argues that Americans, notorious for wasting time-off allocations, need to take the time off, for the sake of the economy. This is not a philosophical claim. U.S. Travel Association has the numbers to prove it.

As found through its ‘Project Time Off’:

Total Unused Vacation Days Annually: 705 million

Average Number of Vacation Days Taken in 2017: 17.2 Days

Americans With Unused Vacation Days: 52%

Americans that say it is important to use vacation days for travel: 82%

Americans that actually did: 47%

Americans who haven’t taken a vacation in a year: 24%


While those staying back at the office rather than spending allocated holiday days may feel the martyrdom is good for the economy, the truth is quite the opposite. Dow is clear in his case-making.

“If Americans were to use all their unused time off, it would deliver a $255 billion jolt to the U.S. economy and create 1.9 million new American jobs.”

Even more importantly, Dow argues that:

“Our travel deficit is creating a void that work alone cannot fill. Those extremely under-vacationed Americans who have not taken a vacation in more than a year admit that they’re missing out on the opportunity to relax and reduce stress (49 percent), on experiencing fun, excitement and adventure (47 percent) and losing opportunities to make memories (40 percent).

“It’s that last one—memories—that truly matters. They are what make up our family stories. What message are you sending to the people who matter to you? Our collective vacation deprivation shortchanges the time we invest in our personal relationships, undermines our performance at work and threatens our health and well-being.”

Across the globe, nations differ in their offerings of paid vacation days and paid public holidays. Where some countries offer up to 50 days (paid vacation days plus paid public holidays) including list toppers Andorra, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Iran, Kuwait, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, at the other end of the spectrum are nations with very tight paid leave allowances such as Japan, Guyana, Indonesia and Mexico, each with less than 15 days (paid vacation days plus paid public holidays).

With awareness growing around the positive economic and social impact of taking time off, and risks to same when not, it is not surprising that businesses and governments are starting to look at time off as a critical part of stability, as individuals and as a collective society. Work martyrdom is exhausting, uninspiring, and simply unnecessary.

And, ultimately, come the end of August, the rings and pings will start to grow as re-energized colleagues and clients return to work after their respective breaks. Hearts and minds will be refocused, bodies will be rested and ready for the final months of the year.

Without question, facing this incoming wave of energy and excitement is definitely not the time to hear one’s inner voice starting to whisper, “I need a holiday!”