If vacation seems to be time for charging, many Americans are running on a depleted battery.

Last year, less than three out of every ten employees in the United States used all of their paid leave. And those people were often tied to work while they were away, sometimes for as long as three hours a day. Survey by Qualtrics It’s hard for an amazing number of workers to balance their work and non-working lives in a way that protects, nurtures, gives time for hobbies, and otherwise rejuvenates them. I found that I was doing it.

A survey of 1,021 US residents over the age of 18 who are full-time employed was conducted in early January. It turns out that work is pouring into vacation because workers are afraid to lag behind work and disappoint the team, and face pressure from colleagues.

In the survey results:

  • 31% of adults in the United States are expected to answer phone calls and text messages during vacation, 27% are expected to respond to emails and messages, and 20% are expected to be online.
  • Forty-five percent of employees take paid leave within two weeks each year, but nine do not.
  • More than half said they might stay in the office longer if they had more vacation.
  • Still, at the end of 2021, the average number of unused vacation days for employees was 9.5 days, and one-third of employees said that vacation days would not be carried forward.

The challenges facing American workers today go far beyond the vague line between work and vacation, experts told Dezalet News. People often struggle to get done at the end of a normal work shift.

“Americans are suffering from overwork and can do more (and) be less productive as they experience diminishing returns,” said Dr. Colin West, MD and PhD. Says. Mayo Clinic physicians have been studying burnout for nearly 20 years.

Often it’s not the American way of doing business, but West said that being productive in a sustainable way is better for both employers and their employees. He said it reduces burnout and turnover and enhances well-being.

Mental health crisis?

According to Benjamin Granger, who holds a PhD in Organizational Psychology and leads the practice of Qualtrics’ employee experience advisory services, a new study shows that U.S. workers consider work to be the cause of mental health problems. It’s far from the first survey. In a new report from his company, 58% call work a major cause of mental health problems.

The pandemic stirs things up — creating uncertainty and amplifying stress. Humans suffer from uncertainty, he added, “we imagine the worst, which forces us to make real mental sacrifices.”

Ruminants could look like this, he says: will I lose my job? Do I need to enter the office? Do I need to be vaccinated? Am I around someone who isn’t? How about the mask? When will this end?

There is evidence that hybrid and remote work arrangements are generally positive, but they are also introducing what he calls “new challenges”, such as making it even harder to unravel personal and work life. ..

“It can create or exacerbate mental health challenges,” Granger said.

Do people put pressure on themselves, or do employers really expect workers to be on all the time? “Probably a mix,” Granger said, citing people who scroll through messages to keep track of something and people who go to work because they don’t want to be late when they get sick.

Olivia Cornwell, ThriveworksTherapy in Orem sees the influence of the culture of working constantly among clients. She thinks people may have a hard time unplugging because “for many people there is some kind of constant anxiety” about her work.

“The difficulty is that when it’s in your thoughts, it doesn’t matter if you’re spending time with your family or on the beach, your thoughts can still work, so for work. I think anxiety is a big part of the challenge. ” “From a mental health perspective, it’s not surprising that this phenomenon leads to worsening people’s mental health, because people are always distracted by all sorts of things.” Is diluting the quality of.

Similarly, Emma Shaol Zan, an assistant professor of sociology at Yale University, said: It addresses the lack of boundaries between work and life and increases the frequency of multitasking attempts. “

Cornwell said high-level employees also have bosses, so it’s not just low-level employees who are looking for a manager. And in many cases, the boss is also responsible for someone else. Therefore, stress is passed both above and below the line.

“I think it’s definitely detrimental to mental health. The lack of these boundaries in work and personal life is detrimental,” she said.

People sometimes think that boundaries are important in personal relationships, but they are just as important in work, Cornwell added.

“It’s about finding that balance — not always saying no, but when you need time for yourself, it says no,” Cornwell said. “If you keep replying to emails or feeling that you have to do these things, even when you’re not at work or getting paid, you start to get really resentful at jobs that you might really like otherwise. . ”

She said stress is known to affect health, from overall mental health to sleep quality, appetite problems, and energy delays. Emotionally, you may have less ability to interact. It’s all connected, Cornwell said. He states that when someone is physically tired, they have weaker emotional abilities.

“You’ll have less ability to have difficult conversations and really listen to people who need attention,” she added.

Similarly, West warns: And when other aspects of people’s lives decline, people’s well-being is compromised. “

Off when off

Jill Sanders, product manager for software company Salt Lake City, hasn’t had a hard time setting boundaries, she told Dezalet News. She tried it both ways — as a delightful person who seemed to work 24 hours a day, and as a great employee but also a personal life. She likes the latter and believes it helps her ability to perform her duties.

She considers vacation and non-business hours to be part of the contract between her and her employer. When she’s on, she gives it everything. When she is resting, then it belongs to her.

Paid leave is part of the reward for her work. “So when I take a vacation, whether it’s a day or a week, I try not to work during that time because it’s part of my salary,” she said. rice field.

Jill Saunders works as a Product Manager in Salt Lake City at home on Monday, April 4, 2022.

Christine Murphy, Dezalet News

Occasionally there are very rare exceptions when the real deadline is approaching and it is important, Saunders said. But her job is not a life-saving job. “Work is important, but especially if you talk to them in advance, you shouldn’t be able to go X hours without coming back,” she said.

And if there is a non-critical overtime job, she promises to make it her top priority the morning she returns to work.

She warns that practice is needed to turn expectations in a healthy direction. If you blur the boundaries, she may have to practice what she literally says. But she adds that it’s worth it to everyone. She proposes to meet these expectations early, preferably when she gets a job.

“Setting boundaries doesn’t require special treatment,” Saunders said. “It’s suitable for all human beings.”

If not balanced, workers will have difficulty rejuvenating and will have a downstream impact on stress levels, Granger said. Without downtime, it is difficult to reduce that stress naturally.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen higher rates of addiction than usual and more abuse at home elsewhere. So you see those potential consequences of accumulated stress. It will start. Over time, it turns into a long-term or acute mental health problem, “he said.

Companies are also affected because these issues can reduce people’s productivity, strain their colleagues, and end their careers. “This is a big problem for businesses, but more important for individuals and their long-term health and well-being,” Granger said.

Hit reset

According to Cornwell, the first step in resolving working-time bleeding is to look at your boundaries to see if you’re where you want. Think about what matters to you, whether it’s family, friends, or sports. Do they get enough of your time and attention?

Granger recommends planning ahead when scheduling vacations and setting expectations for your team. He personally moves his Slack, Gmail, and other notification apps to another page on his phone so that he’s not always in front of him.

Zan said he would consider keeping his cell phone at home as much as possible. She did it by chance, and was amazed at how much time she earned and how well she slept. If that is not possible, she recommends dividing your time into those that are available and those that are not. You can let her colleagues and boss know that you are only checking email from 8am to 10am.

Granger believes that bosses should model their unplugged behavior and discuss it as healthy. When leaders reach Mental Health Day, employees know it’s important.

Cornwell recommends performing a quitting ritual — practice at the end of the day. If someone is working remotely, it may be as easy as stepping into another room and playing music. But it’s a border between parts of the day.

She emphasizes that boundaries pay homage to others as well as to themselves. Others may feel they need to do so if you continue to work, Cornwell said.

She added that boundaries also show respect for your work. You want to do it well and do your best to it every day. It’s easier when you give it all of you and feel bright and recharged and have the energy to do so.

“Everyone deserves something relaxing and fun. They deserve a balance in life,” Cornwell said. “Finding the balance can be a hassle at times, but when you do, you’ll find that you’re doing just as well, if not a better job at your job. , You enjoy your relationships and your hobbies and your downtime even more. “

Saunders points out that boundaries are a hedge against burnout, but not a guarantee. She had one experience working part-time. You can go on a week’s vacation, have a great time, get back to work, find that nothing has changed, and things are still stressful and burdensome.

And if your vacation takes the kids to Disneyland, she joked, “I don’t necessarily think it’s a vacation for my parents.”