The Science Behind Taking a Vacation

Tim Sackett HR (& Life!) Advice, HR Tech, HR Technology, Tim Sackett, Video, Video Interviewing, Web/Tech

I’ve had a feeling for about 18 years that I wasn’t doing vacation right. Not coincidentally, 18 years ago was the birth of my first child, on our way to three boys. Vacations didn’t seem like vacations. Once you have kids vacations become just trips away from home, where you get less sleep, you pay to get less sleep, and you probably drink more.

Because of this, I wasn’t at all surprised to find out there are studies telling us the science behind how to take a better vacation, and how we can help our employees take better vacations. From the Wall Street Journal:

Psychologists and researchers have been studying how to create an ideal vacation that boosts our well-being, relieves stress that can impact our health, and helps us recharge for returning to work. Some conclusions: Longer vacations aren’t necessarily better than shorter ones. Engage in activities you haven’t done before, even if you’re at home on a staycation. And end a trip on a high note.

The days before and after a vacation are also important. Anticipating what you will be doing can bring greater emotional rewards than remembering a trip after you return, research shows. And while post-vacation bliss tends to dissipate quickly, there are tips for holding on to it a little longer.

What are some tips for taking better vacations:

1. Take shorter, more frequent vacations. While you love taking a long vacation, research shows it takes us to about 8 days to get to an optimum level of relaxation, and we start to get stressed the days towards the end of the vacation. So, if you’re only taking a week, you’re probably wasting some days, and still not getting to your most relaxed state.

2. If you want peak relaxation of your vacation time, go for more than a week. Fourteen days or so would probably work in getting you to fully disconnect from work and fully recharge.

3. In the days leading up to your vacation, take time to think about what you’ll be doing on your vacation. How will you relax? The joy of an event you are anticipating, etc. These thoughts actually help you get relaxed quicker… when you finally get on your vacation. We hear this all the time, right?: “Oh, Tim is already on vacation!” when we see people starting to disconnect before they leave!

4. Try and be in charge of your vacation. Having autonomy over the decisions on your vacation also helps you get more relaxed. There’s nothing worse than having someone else tell you what you’ll be doing on your vacation. You get enough of that at work!

5. Leave the kids at home! That is my own personal tip! My wife and I went on vacation this past year by ourselves for the first time in eighteen years. We forgot what vacations were! We won’t make that mistake again.

What are your tips for having a great vacation?

FOT Note:  We here at FOT like to think we get talent and HR at a different level. At the very least, we are probably going to have a different take than the norm. That’s why we asked  HireVue to be an annual sponsor at FOT, where they’ll sponsor posts like this one, allowing FOT contributors to write, without restriction, on all things related to talent and predictive analytics and how it impacts our organizations. Most of us will never get the science behind all of this, and to help, HireVue is also signed up to sponsor a FOT video series aptly names “Weird Science.” Be on the lookout for latest episode of Weird Science later this month.