Taking holidays and vacations can have its benefits. But FOMO can make it into a disastrous experience.
A look at the overall holiday pattern across the globe yields intriguing insights. In a compilation by the Center for Economic and Policy Research Graph, most European countries have around 20 days of paid annual leaves and another 6-10 days of paid holidays. Portugal and Spain top the European charts with around 22 and 13 days of paid holidays and annual leaves respectively. India also leads on this front with around 21 days of public holidays depending on the state one lives in. In contrast, in the United States the numbers are meagre. There is actually no law requiring companies to give paid vacation time to their employees; however, majority of companies give their employees an average of 10 to 14 days off.
Irrespective of the exact numbers, there are clear patterns across countries in terms of the attitudes of the society towards holidays. An American manager working in a leading tech technology multinational narrated her experience “Working during the summer months was often a challenge. My team was a truly global one, with over half based in European offices scattered across the continent. During July and August it became nearly impossible to continue work when it required collaboration with team members or partners on the other side of the globe. Unsurprisingly to anyone reading this outside of the U.S., not a European was to be found at their desk in August, and in July offices were almost as equally as empty. What were we to do as Americans expected to give 100% to our projects year round? It would take a major adjustment for myself and for many others coming from a culture where 30+ days of vacation was a foreign concept and even more difficult to comprehend, consecutive weeks of time off was taken all at once.”
In the Vacation Deprivation Findings conducted by Expedia, it is rather intriguing to see that in several countries, employees end up with a lot of unused vacations. Broadly, Europeans use all of their earned vacation days while Americans, even after receiving much less paid holidays, end up with many unused holidays. Similarly, in Indian and Japan, people are hesitant in using up holidays.
Taking holidays and vacations can have its benefits. It helps break the monotony of everyday life, reconnect with friends and family, and recharge one’s energy levels. Research has shown the positive effects of an engaged mind on business metrics. Several research studies show that holidays can in fact increase employee performance by 80%.
But then, why are people hesitant with taking their time off? There can be a variety of reasons that are all linked to fear - of having to return to overload of work, the feeling that no one else can do the job, the questions of dedication to work that others’ might raise, and the classic FOMO of the opportunities one might miss while being away. Of course, it gets tougher to take time off as one’s role and position in the company grows.
A lot of this also depends on the culture of the company. Talking of holidays and vacations can be looked down upon and as a sign of lack of dedication to one’s work, especially for the new junior employees. In many offices, vacations are tightly held secrets. The same manager who had narrated her US-Europe office dynamics to me further said, “When September came around every year and the Europeans were back in the office, it turned out that no projects had self-destructed, no customer accounts had been lost, and business was to continue on as usual. It was like no one had ever left, and we Americans felt a renewed sense of appreciation for Europe’s generous vacation policies.”
So, how can one plan best for a peaceful, productive, and a guilt-free vacation? Make sure that the work at office is going to be low and that there is someone who is in-charge of responding to urgent matters while you are gone. While on vacation, have certain goals in mind too – be it reconnecting with family, catching up with your health goals, going for nature hikes, or learning about new cultures and customs. Having achieved certain personal goals would help get rid of the post-holiday feeling of having wasted time. That way, you would be back at work energized and refreshed and also have some amazing motivational stories to share with your colleagues.