Vacations Are Fun, But the Relaxation Doesn’t Last

Summary
Job-related stress affects a worker’s physical and psychological health. A break from routine chores, in the form of a vacation, is considered beneficial. The current study examined the perceived benefits of taking a winter vacation for about one week. The recreational activity performed during the vacation was participation in winter sports. It was found that such a vacation improves the mood and satisfaction level of an individual and reduces tension among workers. However, these effects of taking a vacation from work are short-lived. Sleep quality and level of fatigue are not much affected. Further research might explain the basis of these results.

Introduction
Job-related stress affects the health and feeling of well-being of an employee. Physiological stress is generated by the demands and pressures of the job. This stress is increased by thinking about work even during off hours. Vacations provide relief from job-related stress to the employees. A vacation also builds positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love. It helps strengthen social bond with partners and family. These positive emotions provide the coping skills required to face job stress. The current study aimed at finding whether the health and well-being of working individuals improved during a vacation and how long these benefits lasted, after resumption of work.

Methodology

  • Ninety six participants from the Netherlands were recruited for the study. It lasted for seven weeks and was conducted around the winter vacation period.
  • The participants completed a digital diary twice a week via a link provided in their
  • e-mail. The responses entered in the diary were related to sleep quality, health status, mood, fatigue, tension, energy level and satisfaction.
  • The ratings for these items were based on the grade notation system, ranging from
  • 1 (indicating an extremely negative/low rating) to 10 (an extremely positive/high rating).
  • Every participant also answered a cell phone interview twice during the vacation period.

Results

  • The participants worked on an average 38 hours per week and 55 percent of them were highly educated. There were 65% males with a mean age of 44 years. The mean vacation duration was nine days.
  • On a scale of one to 10, sleep quality rating was 7.42, two weeks before the vacation, 7.46 during the vacation, 7.62 in the first week after the vacation and 7.18 in the fourth week after the vacation.
  • On the same scale, mood quality rating was 7.28 two weeks before the vacation, 8.27 during the vacation, 7.41 in the first week after the vacation and 7.31 in the fourth week after the vacation.
  • Fatigue rating was 4.42 two weeks before the vacation, 4.64 during the vacation, 3.81 in the first week after the vacation and 4.60 in the fourth week after the vacation.

Shortcomings
The present study used data from skiing enthusiasts. The results of this study might not be valid for other types of vacations or recreational activities. This study was based on the subjective self-reports of the participants. The research could be made more objective by considering other inputs like ratings from the partner or fellow vacationers, as well as performance ratings to corroborate the self-reports.

Conclusion
This study confirmed the benefits of a vacation on a worker’s health and well-being. Workers felt more satisfied and experienced a more positive mood and less tension during their vacation, compared to a working week. This study showed that mood, tension and satisfaction were strongly affected by vacation, but fatigue and sleep quality were not much altered. However, these effects started vanishing within the first week of resumption of work. By the fourth week after the vacation, the benefits perceived by the workers had completely vanished. Perhaps the results could be specific to the type of sport being studied. Future research work should be carried out to investigate the role of vacation type and duration, and the means to prolong the benefits realized by taking a vacation.

For More Information:
Effects of Vacation from Work on Health and Well-being
Publication Journal: Work & Stress, April–June 2010
By Jessica de Bloom; Sabine Geurts
From the Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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