Right now in Italy, the vast majority of workers will be staring directly into the vast expanse of a full month off. No commute, no office, no e-mails, no meetings. For an entire month. Instead, a family holiday by the beach beckons or, alternatively, the freedom to do precisely what they like. For most of us, that’s just not going to happen. But holidays are important, to individuals and to businesses, and I’ll tell you why.
Without a sufficient break, it’s easy to build up anxieties and stress over a period of time. I’ve seen it often enough among my colleagues and friends when they don’t get that full two weeks away, they don’t get the benefit of a proper break - and it does hamper their performance, there’s no question about that.
Instead, I’ve noticed the rise of people taking a number of scattered, shorter holidays. These have their benefits but what I would say is that you need to create a psychological break from work when you’re on holiday, and you need time to achieve that – time you just don’t get on a long weekend or shorter holiday.
In the creative industries it feels even more important to have a break – after even just a few days away I come back reinvigorated and re-energised. But it’s also relevant to whatever industry you’re in. We all need more time to think. In work, there is so much to process, so much to get done, that often we don’t have enough time to step back, see the bigger picture and to think a problem through. I know that if I’ve got an issue and give it an hour of thought, there will be a solution at the end of it. What if you could create some time to really think things through? Well, that’s what a holiday means to me.
As ridiculous as it sounds, you need time to adjust to taking time off. Four or five days off isn’t enough, in my opinion. For me, a holiday isn’t about sitting on a beach, it’s about doing other things, indulging other interests, challenging or entertaining yourself in a different context, using a different sphere of your brain, perhaps. You need time to switch off completely – to stop one thing and attempt another.
So why do we seem to struggle to take holidays?
It’s very difficult to step away from your responsibilities. Personally I’m very hands-on at work, very creatively involved, even at this point in my career – I like to know what’s happening. Time is always of the essence so I do feel that if I spend a few days away from the studio, for work reasons, I need to get back to stay on top of things. So the idea of taking two weeks out to ‘indulge’ while all this is going on, is understandably difficult for me and a lot of people.
So the onus is on both businesses and employees to encourage one another to take a break. Support your colleagues when they want to take time off, line up someone to look after their work when they’re gone and set the boundaries of what is expected. In the modern world you can’t simply put your pencil down and walk away for two weeks – work has to continue, but it’s how you manage that with the team available that is most important.
Is it down to companies or the individual to manage their well-being? It’s both. It’s the responsibility of companies to recognise that their workforce is the most precious element of their business. Helping your personnel to have some downtime, recognising the simple psychology and value of taking a break – whether physical or mental, is key to all of this. The Germans have it right – they have more holidays than anyone else, more or less, but at the end of the day they’re more productive.
So, let’s all take a proper holiday – it’s good for your business, it’s good for you and, with the support and encouragement of your colleagues, completely manageable. Dispense with your guilt and come back refreshed, and more capable. Everyone will thank you for it.