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  • Tamar Balkin

When Was The Last Time You Took A Long Break From Work And Really Switched Off?

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

Personal photo of a sign in Sydney

"You can turn this world around, 

And bring back all of those happy days

Put your troubles down..

And we will find, A way to come together

And make things better, We need a holiday"

What excuses have you been making for not completely switching off from work for an extended period of time?  

- COVID fear

- the precarious state of the economy;

- there is just too much to do;

- there’s nowhere to go; or 

- You sit and dream like Beach Boys’ of a trip to fictional “place called Kokomo, That's where you want to go to get away from it all” (click here for the song).

While it is really easy to come up with excuses for not planning a holiday, now more than ever it is critical that you do.   I did wonder as I wrote this blog if my words are as futile as the sign in the picture above. Nevertheless, I felt a responsibility to remind readers that the tendency to overwork is occurring at a rapid rate in 2020 and is significantly impacting wellbeing. 

"People who are burnt out, it's not because the job's all bad, it's not because the person is flawed in some kind of way — it's because the connection between the two of them has gone screwy."

Professor Michael Leiter

So what are some of  the benefits to taking a proper break from work:

Heart health:  Your heart rate reduces even in the time leading up to the holiday as you anticipate the break from work.   Psychological wellbeing:  Vacations reduce exhaustion, health complaints, and lower the risk of anxiety and depression. Holidays improve our sleep quality, mood and increase life satisfaction. All of these benefits occur before, during and for up to a month after the vacation.   Organisational impacts:  Morale, collaboration, and productivity increase; incivility, conflict, sick leave and turnover decease. There is also a reduction in the financial risks associated with accumulated  annual leave. 

How do holidays actually help us?

Holidays are a time for ‘recovery’, this is the process of unwinding the impact of the stress of our work on our physiological and psychological systems. The more complete our detachment from work the better the recovery. 

“A completely detached employee is able to stop thinking about work related issues, is no longer bothered by work related negative emotions, and is able to shake off physical exertion from work” 

Jan De Jong

How do we build wellbeing resources during our holidays?

Researchers found that the following  activities were resource building:

- Traditional relaxing activities such as: reading a nice book; taking a long, quiet walk; and emotional regulation  techniques. (see my resources page or my blog for ideas)

- Activities that require an individual challenge or that offer the possibility to learn new skills

- Taking the time to reflect on the positive aspects of  your work

We're on a road to nowhere Come on inside Taking that ride to nowhere We'll take that ride I'm feeling okay this morning And you know We're on the road to paradise Here we go, here we go

Road to Nowhere Talking Heads

Interestingly, loosing resources has a bigger impact on wellbeing than gaining resources. Therefore it is even more important that while you are away from work you don’t think about the negative aspects of your job as it will drain you.  In addition, a bit of forward planning will minimise the likelihood of non-work hassles  derailing you and maximise the benefits of your well deserved break. Be mindful that returning to an excessive work load is counterproductive. So before you take a break, take all the necessary steps to ensure your colleagues, stakeholders and customers know you will not be available, and ensure that your work that been appropriately  reallocated.

"No more working for a week or two. Fun and laughter on our .. holiday, No more worries for me or you, For a week or two."

Summer Holiday, Cliff Richard

The benefits of a vacation come from the long complete break from work, not from the fancy activities or travelling to a magnificent destination. Researchers have found that you need more than 7 days away from work to really disconnect.  Vacations are the longest chunk of leisure time that will relieve you from your job stress and leave you free to do as you please.

“Instead of pondering where to go, how long and what to do there, focus on the things that really matter: a smooth start of the vacation period, mental disengagement from everyday worries, pleasure and autonomy during the holiday, a memorable end of the vacation period and a gradual return to work.”

Jessica De Bloom

In my opinion regular vacations are a critical component of our our wellbeing. As a leader, you have the responsibility to set the example for others.  So, stop what you are doing and book in some leave, then sit back and enjoy the ‘holiday’ related songs I have added to my blog playlist. (If you like, email me your favourite holiday song and I'll add it.) 


References and further reading.

If you need some inspiration for leisure activities for your vacation  take a look at Laura Archers book listen to her interview with Bruce Daisley

Psychology Today. (n.d.). The stay-cation: Having fun while staying put. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Aug. 2020].

Garcês, S., Pocinho, M., Jesus, S.N. and Rieber, M.S. (2018). Positive psychology and tourism: a systematic literature review. Tourism & Management Studies, [online] 14(3), pp.41–51. (n.d.). Making holidays work | The Psychologist. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2020].

‘A hardworking culture is ingrained in our DNA’ 2017, NewsComAu, viewed 18 August 2020, <>.

Finance, C. (n.d.). Not-so-annual leave: How massive annual leave balances impact your cashflow. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2020].

Hruska, B., Pressman, S.D., Bendinskas, K. and Gump, B.B. (2019). Do vacations alter the connection between stress and cardiovascular activity? The effects of a planned vacation on the relationship between weekly stress and ambulatory heart rate. Psychology & Health, 35(8), pp.984–999.

‌ DE JONGE, J. (2019). What makes a good work break? Off-job and on-job recovery as predictors of employee health. Industrial Health. (n.d.). How encouraging employees to take their annual leave can benefit your workplace. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2020].

‌ Gillezeau, N. (2019). The burnout generation. [online] Australian Financial Review. Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2019].

Rotenstein, L.S., Zhao, Z., Mata, D.A., Guille, C. and Sen, S. (2020). Substantial Overlap Between Factors Predicting Symptoms of Depression and Burnout Among Medical Interns. Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Fritz, C. and Sonnentag, S. (2006). Recovery, well-being, and performance-related outcomes: The role of workload and vacation experiences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(4), pp.936–945.

Hobfoll, S.E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44(3), pp.513–524.

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