The Importance of Truly Switching Off on Holiday

The Importance of Truly Switching Off on Holiday
The Importance of Truly Switching Off on Holiday

In today’s fast-paced world, the demands of work can be relentless. With the advent of technology, the boundaries between work and personal life have blurred, making it increasingly difficult for people to truly switch off. However, the importance of taking a real break cannot be overstated. Truly disconnecting during a holiday is crucial for mental health, productivity and overall wellbeing.

The Busier You Are, The More You Need Time Off

The notion that the busier you are, the more you need time off, holds significant truth. Constant engagement in work without sufficient breaks can lead to burnout, a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. This phenomenon is increasingly recognised by the next generation of leaders who emphasise the need for work-life balance.

According to a study by the American Psychological Association, taking time away from the office helps reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that contribute to their stress levels. Furthermore, holidays have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, improve reaction times and increase productivity upon returning to work.

The Individual Nature of Recuperation

The amount of time needed for effective recuperation varies from person to person. While some may feel rejuvenated after a short break, others might need an extended period to recover fully. Passion for one’s work can sometimes mask the need for breaks, as the joy derived from work can lead to overcommitment and eventual burnout.

It’s crucial to recognise and respect one’s personal limits, and to understand that needing a break is not a sign of weakness but a necessary component of maintaining long-term productivity and health.

The Finnish Approach to Holidays

Finland offers a prime example of the benefits of  holiday time. In Finland, it’s customary to have about four weeks of summer holiday and one week in the winter, allowing people to enjoy extended breaks from work. This practice is rooted in the country’s culture, where both men and women participate equally in the workforce and childcare is a shared responsibility. Such extended holidays are not merely a luxury but a necessity for maintaining family bonds and personal wellbeing.

One noteworthy aspect of the Finnish holiday culture is the emphasis on truly disconnecting from work. As mentioned in this article by Ani Närhi, Horton International’s Managing Partner in Finland. 

Hopefully all the people taking a longer Finnish style holiday or a shorter version can concentrate on “the task at hand”. Just leave the work behind! Give the holiday your 100%. No multitasking with your holiday and work! I love the out-of-office-message I got from a client: I’m having a holiday and won’t be checking my emails!

The Reality of PTO Usage

In contrast and despite the clear benefits of taking time off, in the US, many employees struggle to fully utilise their paid time off (PTO). Over half (52%) of employees report working while on PTO. Some might check their emails or hop on conference calls occasionally, while others may put in hours of work. This behaviour undermines the purpose of taking time off, which is to recharge and disconnect from work stress.

Furthermore, over 765 million vacation days have gone unused by Americans. This may be because they forget to use them, don’t want to use them or believe they can’t use them because they’re overwhelmed with work or feel like they have too much to get done. In 2018, 55% of Americans reported having unused vacation days, up from 52% the year prior.

Mandatory PTO is one way some companies are trying to address this issue. According to a survey conducted by Forbes Advisor, nearly a third (31%) of employees report mandatory paid time off as a top benefit to offer. This means workers are required to take a certain amount of time off, ensuring they get the necessary break from work.

The Role of Effective Disconnection

Effective disconnection means more than just not physically going to work. It involves a mental and emotional break from work-related thoughts and activities. This level of disconnection is essential for allowing the brain to rest and reset. The inability to switch off can lead to chronic stress, which impairs memory, decreases cognitive flexibility and hampers the ability to make sound decisions.

Creating a True Holiday Environment

To ensure that holidays serve their purpose of rejuvenation, it’s important to create an environment that facilitates true relaxation. Here are some practical steps:

Set Clear Boundaries: Inform colleagues and clients about your holiday in advance and set clear expectations that you will not be available. This can be done through out-of-office messages and direct communication.

Digital Detox: Limit the use of digital devices. If possible, avoid checking work emails and messages. Use this time to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones.

Engage in Relaxing Activities: Plan activities that help you unwind and relax. This could include reading, hiking, spending time with family or simply enjoying nature.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress and increase your ability to be present, making your holiday more enjoyable and restorative.

Physical Exercise: Engage in physical activities that you enjoy. Exercise is known to boost mood, reduce stress, and improve overall health.

The Broader Impact of Taking a Break

Beyond personal benefits, taking a break has broader implications for workplace culture and productivity. When leaders take holidays and respect their time off, they set a positive example for their teams. This can create a more supportive and balanced work environment where employees feel encouraged to take the time they need to recharge.

A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that organisations that encourage holidays see higher levels of employee engagement, productivity and retention. Employees who take regular holidays are less likely to experience burnout and are more likely to remain loyal to their employers.


In conclusion, truly switching off on holiday is not just a luxury but a necessity in today’s high-pressure work environment. 

Whether it’s a short break or an extended holiday, giving yourself the gift of true rest and relaxation is essential for sustaining long-term health, happiness and success.

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