Vacations, personal days and even lunch breaks are related to business success. Research has verified that mental fatigue leads to poor performance. It is not just a matter of using personal time off; most employees benefit from a break from their work every 90 minutes. Jeff Stibel, author of “Wired for Thought,” explains, “Just like the heart, the brain gets fatigued from too much time on-task. If you overtax your heart, the next thing you need to do is relax, or you’ll die. The same is true of the brain. Do too much, and you’ll burn it out. You’ll make bad choices.”
A study from the University of Toronto showed that employees who engage in workday breaks have a more positive attitude, better focus and higher resilience after their break. Do you work through lunch? The university’s research showed taking a lunch break is a big opportunity for restoring energy and contributes to less end-of-the-day exhaustion.
In the report, “The State of American Vacation,” a growing number of employees are described as sleepy, cranky “workplace martyrs” who will not step away from their desks. Workers refuse to take a break for several reasons. Some employees feel that going on vacation is not worth it because they will return to more piles of work and have to work harder to compensate for being away. Others don’t want to teach co-workers how to do their tasks for fear of being replaced. Mature workers often complain that no one else can do their job. The report identified professional, white-collar exempt employees as generally being the least likely to take time off. And when they do, they are most likely to provide a mobile number for con-tact and to call the office to check in.
Ann Burnett, a North Dakota State University professor, de-scribed overwork as a misplaced “badge of honor” for some employees and organizations. “You do need to take time away for your brain to get refreshed and for you to become more productive,” ac-cording to Burnett. In her assess-ment, lack of time off is contribut-ing to stress-related illnesses. She explains that overworked employ-ees don’t have a lot of patience and their increased stress may contrib-ute to depression and anxiety.
There are three steps for you or your employees to prepare for leisure time and not join the over-worked trend. (1) Create a coverage plan with co-workers to completely disconnect from work. Contact colleagues in advance and let them know you are going to be away, managing their expectations. Use the out-of-office feature on e-mail; (2) As a manager, lead by example and encourage your team to take time off. The result is a more positive, energized staff. It also shows senior management that you are developing your team; and (3) Ask for assistance. Talk to your mentors or trusted members of your professional network about how they manage time away from work.
Take a break — it is good for your career.