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Labor Day, the end of summer & vacation

from PIA Western Alliance

Summer doesn’t officially end until September 22nd. By the way, if you're keeping track, the exact time of the Autumnal Equinox is 6:54 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

However, for most of us the three-day Labor Day weekend is the traditional end of summer. It's the three months that most of us use for vacations. And we all know they are that couple of weeks — more or less — where we recharge and refocus.

Or do we?

A Harris Poll done by the American Psychological Association (APA) concludes that for 64% of us, the feel-good of vacation wears off in just a few days of the daily grind.

  • 24% lose the benefits within a couple of days
  • 40% say they are running on fumes within the same time frame

  • In other words, APA Center for Organizational Excellence head David Ballard notes, "Employers shouldn't rely on the occasional vacation to offset a stressful work environment. Unless they address the organizational factors causing stress and promote ongoing stress management efforts, the benefits of time off can be fleeting. When stress levels spike again shortly after employees return to work, that's bad for workers and for business. Employers can do better."

    How to get there is the big question. The first stop in finding the answer is identifying the cause — or causes — of that stress:

  • Low salaries
  • No growth opportunity
  • Heavy workloads
  • Long hours
  • Unrealistic job expectations

  • That means those returning to work after a vacation return to those stresses and those stresses quickly overwhelm them. Plus, vacations really aren’t vacations:

  • 66% report vacations reduce stress and boost energy, motivation and work quality
  • But 20% say vacations are almost as stressful as work
  • 28% of employees end up working more than they planned while on vacation
  • 42% say they dread going back to work

  • Worse:

  • Most employees say vacations are aren’t “welcomed” by their supervisors
  • Just 41% are encouraged to take time off
  • Only 38% of supervisors say they encourage employees to take a vacation

  • The APA says that is odd — and wasteful of employee health — because companies that support vacations tend to have happier workplaces. Those employees feel more valued and satisfied with their jobs.

    Ballard said, “Websites and magazine articles offer plenty of tips on how to make the most of time out of the office, but often put the onus on the individual employee and ignore important organizational factors. A supportive culture and supervisor, the availability of adequate paid time off, effective work-life policies and practices, and psychological issues like trust and fairness all play a major role in how employees achieve maximum recharge.”

    That message — Ballard says — comes from the top and “a culture that supports time off [that] is woven throughout all aspects of the workplace.”

    Those organizations — the APA notes — provide stress management resources. This is a critical factor in creating happy employees because 35% say they experience chronic work stress and only 40% have employers that give them stress-management resources.

    Last. Ballard said employers who add mental health resources to the work environment will have employees following a healthier lifestyle. “Chronic work stress, insufficient mental health resources, feeling overworked and under supported — these are issues facing too many workers, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” he said. more

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