A World Health Organisation (WHO) study reported that working more than 55 hours a week – instead of the usual 35-40 hours – left people with a 35 percent higher risk of stroke.
It also left people with a 17 percent higher risk of fatal heart disease. And the benefits are not just physical.
A study by the American Psychological Association found that time off cuts down on stress by taking people away from the environment that causes stress and anxiety.
After a break, you will return to work refreshed, with renewed purpose. It is likely that you will also be more productive and creative, as well as more content in your role.
Holidays v. working
According to BrightHR, 28 percent of UK employees cancelled holiday plans during 2020.
While the Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly influenced that, a 2018 report by Glassdoor shows the situation wasn’t any better before the pandemic: 40 percent of UK workers only took half of their holiday allowance.
According to Glassdoor, the average employee claimed just 62 percent of their entitlement.
So if we want people to be fully rested and productive, employers clearly have work to do encouraging them to have a break.
However, some of those most often resisting time off are c-level executives themselves.
The problem is particularly acute in the US, where CEOs of companies such as Whole Foods and Qualcomm have accrued thousands of hours in unused holidays.
In 2020, Apple gave Tim Cook $115,385 for his banked holiday.
The same Glassdoor report found that among those respondents who did use their holiday allowance, almost a quarter regularly checked emails while away and some 15 percent worked through annual leave for fear of falling behind.
When things reach that stage, the company culture needs to be re-evaluated and begin to prioritise employee wellbeing.
What can employees do to manage their working hours?
It is vital to set clear preferences and procedures. For example, who can sign work off in your stead? Are there any projects you should be contacted about? How can people get in touch if they need to? And will there be any times when you will be completely off the radar?
If you make sure that you keep everyone in the loop – from your immediate team to key stakeholders elsewhere in the business – there should be no confusion and everyone should know what’s expected of them.
If this is the first time you’re having a week or two off since taking the role, you might find that you cannot disconnect from the office completely. But the more breaks you take, the easier it will become.