Vacation Bliss Doesn't Linger for Tired, Stressed-Out Workers

Vacation Bliss Doesn't Linger for Tired, Stressed-Out Workers

Taking time off reduces many workers' stress and re-energizes them, but those benefits disappear once they're on the job again, researchers say.

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Moreover, many people said they're unable to relax and enjoy their time away from the office at all, according to a new poll of more than 1,500 American adults who work full- or part-time.

When they returned to work after some time off, 68 percent of respondents said they were in a better mood; 66 percent had more energy; and 57 percent reported feeling more motivated and less stressed. The payoff: 58 percent said they were more productive; and 55 percent said they did better work.

But that post-vacation glow apparently faded fast. For 40 percent, it was gone within days, while 24 percent said it vanished as soon as they returned to work.

And some workers apparently never seem to relax: 21 percent said they felt tense or stressed while on vacation; 28 percent ended up working more than planned; and 42 percent dreaded returning to work.

The results of the Work and Well Being Survey were released recently by the American Psychological Association (APA).

"People need time off from work to recover from stress and prevent burnout," said David Ballard, head of the APA's Center for Organizational Excellence.

"But employers shouldn't rely on the occasional vacation to offset a stressful work environment," he added in an APA news release. "Unless they address the organizational factors causing stress and promote ongoing stress-management efforts, the benefits of time off can be fleeting. When stress levels spike again shortly after employees return to work, that's bad for workers and for business. Employers can do better."

Only about four out of 10 respondents said their employer encourages workers to take time off. Sixty-four percent of employees in those companies said their employer also provides sufficient resources to help them manage stress, compared with 18 percent of employees in workplaces where time off is not encouraged.

Overall, 35 percent of respondents said they have chronic work stress, and 41 percent said their employer provides sufficient resources to help them manage it.

What's stressing workers out? The top causes include low salaries (49 percent); lack of opportunity for growth or advancement (46 percent); heavy workload (42 percent); unrealistic job expectations and long hours (39 percent each), the findings showed.

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Only half of workers polled said their employer provides adequate mental health resources.

"Chronic work stress, insufficient mental health resources, feeling overworked and under-supported -- these are issues facing too many workers, but it doesn't have to be this way," Ballard said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on stress.


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