Category Archives: Vacation

Don’t Let Workplace Telepressure and Vacation Shame Impact Your Vacation

With spring behind us and our eye on summer, thoughts often turn to vacation. For some, vacations are routine and/or are based in tradition. This could include weekends at the cottage or a nearby campsite. Vacations sometimes revolve around a week or two at the same time every year to the same place. Or, perhaps vacations are novel experiences each year. Unfortunately, it appears that many North Americans do not take vacation and that portable technology has made it more difficult for us to be fully engaged during our vacation.

Chairs Cabin Water Vacation Nature Cottage Lake

Growing up, I had the privilege of experiencing two weeks of vacation at a rental in Nova Scotia near where my maternal grandparents lived. Our first trip there was around my sister’s first birthday (I was 4 and a half). My father, a lawyer, had a fairly stressful job and the idea was that getting away would be a chance for us to have focused time together as a family. Over the years since those summers away, our family has fondly reflected on our time at “Harbour View”. Our rented cottage did not have a phone (and in the 1970s and 1980s, there were no cell phones). My father used to say that one of the reasons we went to Harbour View was because if we did not leave town and get away from the phone, he would never be able to leave work behind.

As I reflect back on my family’s vacation practices, I see the wisdom. It was an opportunity to detach. It was a time for rest, a time to relax, and a time to focus on family. I remember my father reading lots of books, playing tennis with my sister and I (once we were a little older), taking us to the on-site pool a couple of times a day, and playing catch and baseball with us in the field behind the cottage. He was noticeably more relaxed and humorous. Getting away was smart and the outcomes for him (and us as a family) were clear and significant enough that I remember them 35+ years later.

In stark contrast to my father taking all his vacation each year, a number of studies have demonstrated that vacation time is not being used. Project: Time Off (2017), an American study, found that Americans used a half-day more vacation (16.8 days) in 2016 compared with 2015 (16.2 days). However, because more vacation time was earned, more vacation days were left on the table than the previous year. In Canada, the story is fairly similar. In 2015, on average, Canadians accrued 17 days vacation and took, on average, 15.5 days (Montgomery, 2015b). The 2010 Statistics Canada General Social Survey found that one third of Canadians took less than 10 days vacation and 19.3% took no paid vacation days at all (Hilbrecht & Smale, 2016) which is slightly better than the 23% who took no vacation days in the U.S. (Ray, Sanes, & Schmitt, 2013).

In North America, “letting go” while on vacation and disconnecting is also a problem. For example, 57% of Canadians respond immediately to work-related email while on vacation (Montgomery, 2015a). One U.S. study of those working more than 50 hours a week found that 30% did a significant amount of work while on vacation.

Personally, I struggle with taking big blocks of time for vacation and with using all my vacation days. At times I have wondered if it is, in part, a result of not having children. I’ve thought that maybe I’d be more inclined to recreate the kind of vacation experience I had as a kid for my own children or I would crave more intense, uninterrupted quality time that a vacation could provide. However, it seems that perhaps there is more in play that my lack of offspring, and it also seems that I’m not alone in leaving vacation days on the table.

Workplace Telepressure

One of the reasons people struggle with taking vacation is the work norms that produce pressure to respond right away messages they receive through message-based technologies such as e-mail or text messages (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). These pressures make it difficult to set physical and temporal boundaries that support the separation of work and leisure (Park, Fritz, & Jex, 2011). While personality characteristics (e.g., conscientiousness, extroversion) can contribute to this impulse to check and respond to work-related email, norms in the work environment are also to blame (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). These norms are created in response to the demands of the job (and job overload). It can be created by employers who email their employees during non-work hours and by employees who respond to work messages during non-work hours (who may be keen to demonstrate their work ethic or present themselves as work martyrs; Ammar, Santuzzi, & Barber, 2016). When responding to messages during non-work hours becomes the norm, it makes it more difficult for employees to set boundaries that support detaching from work including during vacation.

Vacation Shame 

Feeling guilty or experiencing shame from co-workers when using the vacation time to which one is entitled is referred to as “vacation shame”. It seems that a younger generation of workers and women are more likely to experience this guilt or shame. A 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey found that 59 percent of Millennials and 41 percent of older employees feel a sense of shame when they take time off. And 25% of all women, compared with 20% of all men, reported that feelings of guilt about taking vacation held them back from using vacation time.

These feelings may be a result, in part, of a lack of clear messaging about time off. In the Project: Time Off (2017) study, 66% of those surveyed felt their organization culture was ambivalent about, discouraged, or sent mixed messages about taking time off. When employee vacation time and the benefits that result are not valued, it may not be promoted or encouraged.

Why Vacation and “Unplugging” on Vacation are Important

Detaching from work is critical to the psychological and physical recovery process that allows us to go back to work and perform well (Fritz, Yankelevich, Zarubin, & Barger, 2010). Workplace telepressure and vacation shame make detaching more difficult and lead to employees not using all of their vacation time or not getting the optimal results from the vacation time they do take. The consequences are broad ranging.

Workplace telepressure has been found to contribute to higher levels of physical and cognitive burnout, health-related absenteeism (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015), poor sleep quality (Sonnetag & Fritz, 2015). And, when workplace telepressure violates boundaries between work and family life, it can lead to less satisfaction with the investment in family and greater work-family conflict (Hunter, Clark, Carlson, 2017). Vacation shame means that employees often take fewer vacation days which can contribute to lower productivity and burnout (Project: Time Off, 2017). And perhaps it might be useful to keep this quote in mind when thinking about checking and responding to messages while on vacation: “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master” – Christian Lous Lange (1921)

It is important to understand that there is a relationship between the amount of paid vacation taken and life satisfaction and also self-assessed health (Hilbrecht & Smale, 2016). More specifically, longer vacations were associated with “greater satisfaction with work–life balance, better mental health and reduced time pressure” (p. 49).

One final point. Arguably, one of the reasons we take vacations is because they offer opportunities to create memories with friends or family. If you want to increase the chance that you can fondly reflect back and remember aspects of your vacation, paying attention to how long you are connected while you are on vacation is important. Vozza (2017) reported on one 2016 study that found using your smartphone to take pictures and finding things to do can help with remembering your vacation. However, those who are on their phones for two hours or more a day are 26% more likely to have trouble remembering the experiences you had while on your vacation. Using your device for work-related activities – even for an hour – can have an impact. Only 43% of people who were on their devices for work one hour or more per day remembered all the events on their vacation while 60% those who used them less than one hour were able to do so. And those who worked on their laptops recalled significantly fewer aspects of their vacation.

Final Thoughts

If you have paid vacation, you are entitled to it. If you do not take it, you are essentially donating money back to your organization (Project: Time Off, 2017). You may also be placing your mental and physical health at greater risk and compromising your own productivity on the job. Not detaching from work while on vacation produces similar consequences, but can also have an impact on your family relationships. One has to wonder whether being a work martyr by not taking vacation or all your vacation and working/responding to messages while on vacation is worth these costs.

References

Ammar, J., Santuzzi, A. M., & Barber, L. K. (2015). Are you suffering from telepressure? Time for a cure. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-wide-wide-world-psychology/201504/are-you-suffering-telepressure-time-the-cure

Barber, L. K., & Santuzzi, A. M. (2015). Please respond ASAP: Workplace telepressure and employee recovery. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 20(2), 172-190.

Fritz, C., Yankelevich, M., Zarubin, A., & Barger, P. (2010). Happy, healthy, and productive: the role of detachment from work during nonwork time. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(5), 977-983.

Hilbrecht, M., & Smale, B. (2016) The contribution of paid vacation time to wellbeing among employed Canadians. Leisure/Loisir, 40(1), 31-54.

Hunter, E. M., Clark, M. A., & Carlson, D. S. (ahead of print, 2017). Violating Work-Family Boundaries: Reactions to Interruptions at Work and Home. Journal of Management, Doi: 0149206317702221.

Montgomery, M. (2015a, July16). Vacations? Canadians need to let go but don’t. Radio Canada International.

Montgomery, M. (2015b, October ). Canadians and their vacations. Radio Canada International.

Park, Y., Fritz, C., & Jex, S. M. (2011). Relationships between work-home segmentation and psychological detachment from work: the role of communication technology use at home. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 16(4), 457-467.

Ray, R., Sanes, M., & Schmitt, J. (2013). No-vacation nation revisited. Washington, DC:
Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2015). Recovery from job stress: The stressor-detachment model as
an integrative framework. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(1 ), 72-103.

Vozza, S. (2017, June 2). What happens to your brain when you work on vacation. Fast Company.

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Dogs and Leisure: Celebrating National Dog Day

It’s National Dog Day and being a dog owner, how could I possibly let the day go without a post? It would not seem right.

Over the last month or so, I’ve had the opportunity to think quite intensely about the role of pets in people’s lives. On July 11th, my sister said goodbye to the family dog of 12 years, Monty. Many days since that goodbye, she and her family have been sharing Monty stories and reliving the joy that he brought to their lives. Of course dogs are work and sometimes an inconvenience, but they also can enhance even the simplest of leisure experiences such as watching a movie (can’t pass up those dog snuggles) and walking in your neighbourhood. They can encourage leisure behaviour such as playing with pets or getting out to walk your dog if you’re not someone who normally walks. Dogs can also help create fabulous memories on vacation (like the time Monty stepped off the wharf thinking the green algae was grass – thankfully, he had on a doggie life jacket). As I think about Monty and other dogs (including my own dog, Chuckie) who have enhanced my life and the lives of friends, I wanted to take some time to share the research on dogs and leisure.

pets and leisure

Monty as a puppy. He seemed to prefer playing with his food at this particular stage.

Despite the rise in dog ownership over the last 30 years in North America, there is not an overwhelming amount of research on the topic of dogs and leisure. What does exist in terms of research suggests that there are considerable mental and physical health benefits to having a dog and that dogs do create and enhance the leisure experiences of their owners. This is likely not a surprise to dog owners.

Happiness and Dogs

Research has found that having a dog can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and increase an individual’s sense of security and happiness (Sable, 1995). Dogs can provide companionship throughout the life cycle – for single adults, empty nesters, and children without siblings (Anderson, 2008; Hodgson & Darling, 2011). The interaction children have while caring for and playing with their dog can increase children’s attachment and in turn, their psychological health (Salmon & Timperio, 2011). Through leisure, children and adults can let go of pent up frustrations and stress emotions and playing with dogs is one particular leisure activity that allows for this opportunity. Although there is a lack of academic research on it, I have been more aware recently of dogs being calming companions for individuals who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dogs Promote Social Contact

Dogs encourage owners to engage in outdoor recreation and interact with others in the broader community (Wood, Giles-Corti, & Bulsara, 2005; Wood, Giles-Corti, Bulsara, & Bosch, 2007). Graham and Glover (2014) describe dogs as “social facilitators” indicating a dog’s role in fostering opportunities for social leisure and engagement. Beck and Meyers (1996) found that dog owners had more and longer conversations while walking their dogs than people walking alone.

An interesting study by Graham and Glover (2014) focused on dog parks. They found that initially, human dog park visitors only knew other human visitors by their dogs’ names. Study participants discussed that how their dog interacted with other dogs and with the other humans in the dog park influenced the way they, as dog owners, were welcomed and/or treated and how they welcomed and developed relationships in turn. As time passed, some dog owners arranged to meet at the park at certain times so they and their dogs could interact. Some dog  owners also eventually developed relationships that extended outside of the dog park. The study also provides examples of social support being accessed by dog owners when they were facing a difficult time (e.g., sick dog, sick child). Visiting dog parks provided opportunities for those with similar interests (i.e., dogs) to come together, to meet, and develop relationships that provided to be valuable, beneficial, and supportive.

Dogs and Physical Activity

It appears that having a dog can be good for your physical activity levels and has even been proposed as a solution to obesity (Boisvert & Harrell, 2014; Salmon, Timperio, Chu, & Veitch, 2010). One Canadian study found that those adults with dogs walk almost twice as much as those who do not have dogs (Brown & Rhodes, 2006). Cutt, Knuiman, and Giles-Corti (2008) found that getting a dog not only increased individuals’ recreational walking, but also their intention to participate in recreational walking. The responsibility to care for a dog (which includes proper exercise) is likely a key motivator in getting dog owners out walking. The researchers also believed that acquiring a dog may be significant in influencing continued walking behaviours over time. Also, they point out that while life transitions (e.g., moving from singlehood to couplehood) can result in decreases in physical activity, dog ownership and the sense of responsibility to exercise the dog, may allow dog owners to maintain physical activity levels during times of transition.

Dogs and Vacations

We enjoying taking our shih tzu, Chuckie, on vacation. Recently, I went to Prince Edward Island with a friend and for the first time, left Chuckie at home with my husband. It was strange. The routine of taking him for a walk in the morning was missing. We even missed rushing back from our various adventures on the Island to hang out with him. And, we missed taking him for a car ride in the evenings when we went to watch the sunset. When we visit my mother in Nova Scotia, Chuckie loves going to the beach and it brings us great joy to watch him enjoy that part of our vacation as much as we do.

There is research on pets and travel. One Australian study found approximately 95% of dog owners preferred to take their dogs on vacation (Carr & Cohen, 2009). Another US-based study found that 78% of dog owners preferred to take their dogs on vacation (Hotel Online, 2003). Carr and Cohen also found that dog owners wanted to bring their dogs on vacation because it add to the “pleasure, enjoyment, and relaxation gained by them from the vacation experience” (p. 294). While the desire to take pets on vacation is quite high, pet owners also identify constraints in doing so – mainly a lack of pet-friendly accommodations. This can mean that travellers may choose (or be forced) to camp, stay with friends who welcome dog visitors, or book more expensive accommodations (e.g., cottages) as part of their vacation plans.

When dogs cannot accompany families on vacation, this increases the vacation planning as owners need to work out suitable arrangements for their dog and may also experience anxiety about how their pet is doing in their absence (or maybe that’s just me). In my own case, I find myself planning my vacation in a way that can include our dog and so my attachment to him influences the types of vacation experiences I seek.

Chuckie enjoying Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia. July 2014.

Chuckie enjoying Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia. July 2014.

I wish all dog owners a happy National Dog day. For those who recently lost a dog, I hope that the day is a chance to focus on the joy your dog brought and perhaps is an opportunity to anticipate the joy that a dog will bring to your life in the future.

References:

Anderson, P. E. (2008). The powerful bond between people and pets: Our boundless connections to companion animals. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Beck, A. M., & Meyers, M. (1996). Health enhancement and companion animal ownership. Annual Review of Public Health, 17, 247–257.

Boisvert, J. A., & Harrell, W. A. (2014). Dog walking: a leisurely solution to pediatric and adult obesity?. World Leisure Journal, 56(2), 168-171.

Brown, S. G., & Rhodes, R. E. (2006). Relationships among dog ownership and leisure-time walking in Western Canadian adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30, 131–136.

Cutt, H., Knuiman, M., & Giles-Corti, B. (2008). Does getting a dog increase recreational walking? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5(1), 17. Available at: http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/5/1/17

Graham, T. M., & Glover, T. D. (2014). On the Fence: Dog Parks in the (Un) Leashing of Community and Social Capital. Leisure Sciences, 36(3), 217-234.

Hodgson, K., & Darling, M. (2011). Pets in the family: Practical approaches. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 47(5), 299–305.

Hotel Online . ( 2003 ) The Sheraton, Westin, and W Hotel brands drop restrictions for dogs; Starwood survey convinces chain to include market niche of 62 million U.S. dog owners: http://hotel-online.com/archive/archive-7292.

Sable, P. (1995). Pets, attachment, and well-being across the life cycle. Social Work, 40(3), 334–341.

Salmon, J., & Timperio, A. (2011). Childhood obesity and human-animal interaction. In P. McCardle, S. McCune, J. A. Griffin, & V. Maholmes (Eds.), How animals affect us: Examining the influences of human-animal interaction on child development and human health (pp. 183–192). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Salmon, J., Timperio, A., Chu, B., & Veitch, J. (2010). Dog ownership, dog walking and children’s and parent’s physical activity. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 81, 264–271.

Wood, L., Giles-Corti, B., Bulsara,M., & Bosch, D. (2007).More than a furry companion: The ripple effect of companion animals on neighborhood interactions and sense of community. Society & Animals, 15(1), 43.

Wood, L., Giles-Corti, B., & Bulsara, M. (2005). The pet connection: pets as a conduit for social capital? Social Science and Medicine, 61(6), 1159–1173.

Taking Time to Disconnect (and Connect): The Benefits of a Vacation

If ever there was a time when I have valued the privilege of having vacation time, it is now. In 5 days I will be on vacation and I am in desperate need of the opportunity to disconnect from work, connect with my husband, and to experience some pure, unfettered leisure.

vacation

This academic term has felt a little long. The first week of class in January was great, but then there was a 3-week faculty strike/lockout, followed by an 11-week compressed academic term without the usual study break. Not having a break in the term was an eye-opener for me. I believe I always appreciated the break, but it wasn’t until I didn’t have one that I really understood all the different ways that not having a break can impact a person. Usually, I return from break refreshed… ready for the last few weeks of the term – excited about the remaining lectures and with a renewed interest in engaging my students in discussion. This year, I found myself hoping for snow days (and I got some). I found myself dreading delivering topics I  knew would generate debate and discussion. I wondered what was happening… why had something I enjoyed so much begun to feel like a chore. It wasn’t my students – I have been blessed with two wonderful collections of undergraduate students in my classes this term. Many have been eager to share their ideas, contribute to the discussions, and even educate me about things I don’t know about (various new technology trends I was unaware of). As I reflected on what was happening, I realized I was exhausted – physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Those few days in March that I take every year – usually to visit and play with my sister, brother-in-law, and nieces – have been more critical to my teaching and work satisfaction than I ever realized. And so, as I head off on my after-the-term-is-over vacation (which is actually my honeymoon), I’m thinking seriously about how to approach it.

Disconnecting from Work (Unplugging)

One of my decisions is that I am going to “unplug” – no email, Facebook, Twitter, or blogging for the time I’m away. In part, I feel this is an important decision if I hope to “connect” and stay connected with my husband while we’re honeymooning. I’ve had some interesting reactions to this as I prepare to leave work behind for 16 days. A few colleagues are surprised that I will not be checking email while I’m away – What if I miss out on an opportunity? What if something becomes harder to deal with after I get back because I didn’t “nip it in the bud” while I was on vacation? I was asked if I could Skype or conference call in for a thesis defense – a request that I use technology to allow me to be flexible in my availability while on vacation. And so I quickly could see the penetration of technology into the vacation time – something that has become more common and can create conflict for employees when they are looking to take the vacation time to which time they are entitled (Pearce, 2011; White & White, 2007). Thankfully, my fear of missing out isn’t that great and I figure that if a problem grows while I’m gone, I’ll be well rested to deal with it when I get back (and maybe, it will solve itself in my absence… quite simply, I don’t think I’m that important). However, I have experienced the tension or conflicting feelings about vacation created by technology and the ability to be constantly connected.

Benefits of Taking Vacation

Research has shown that vacation and vacation activities produce a variety of positive health and well-being benefits (De Bloom, Geurts, & Kompier, 2012). Some studies have found that after individuals take vacation, they experience a decline in job stress and burnout (Westman & Etzion, 2001) and increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction (Gilbert & Abdullah, 2004). Other studies indicate that these benefits are short-lived – generally found to be experienced for only up to two weeks after one returns before the fade effect begins (Nawijn, Marchand, Veenhoven, & Vingerhoets, 2010). If it is the case that the positive benefits of vacation fade after a relatively short period of time (and this does seem to be the case for at least some individuals), then an argument could be made for the importance of “unplugging” for the time you are on vacation and taking full advantage of the benefits experienced while you are away from work (e.g., feelings of escape and relaxation, boosts in mood and happiness). If you do not embrace the vacation experience, the risk is that the benefits may not be realized at all.

In some cases, individuals are choosing to go into a “technology dead zone” for vacation. Apparently, tourism in technology dead zones can provide individuals an excuse to “unplug” and a chance to be more present, have other types of sensory experiences, and evaluate the value of being “plugged in” and connected (Pearce & Gretzel, 2012). Not a bad idea.

Disconnecting from work also means you have more opportunities to connect with those with whom you are on vacation. For me, connecting with my husband is an important activity for this vacation. Again, I turn to the research which suggests that vacations and travel can strengthen family bonds, can improve the quality of relationships, and can even strengthen marriages and reduce the likelihood of divorce (Petrick & Huether, 2013). I have not been able to find any research that explores how those outcomes could be impacted if one member of the family is checking and replying to emails (social or work), checking Facebook, or replying to text messages, but I would hypothesize that it might be more difficult to be fully present and engaged with family if these activities are a part of the daily vacation routine. It is possible that if individuals can set some good boundaries (get up and check/reply to messages before their partner or family members wake up), perhaps the “connection” or relationship benefits of vacation could still be realized. I do wonder, though, whether the personal benefits (e.g., happiness, relaxation) would still be maintained. Why risk it though?

I’m looking forward to leaving work behind – it is not something I have done for this period of time (16 days) in my working life to date. I feel fortunate that I’m able to contemplate a vacation where disconnecting is possible. I do recognize that some individuals run their own businesses and so disconnecting is simply not possible if their livelihood is to remain active. There are individuals working in countries or who work in organizations where paid vacation time is not provided. Even if individuals in those circumstances  may be able to get away, it could be with an expectation that they continue to work. Other individuals go on vacation leaving behind family members who are not healthy or who are struggling in one way or another. Worry about loved ones may follow them on vacation and circumstances may require checking in regularly. In other words, I recognize that my “struggle” about disconnecting is a problem I have because I am a privileged individual with some pretty ideal circumstances – at least at this particular time in my life. I do feel, however, that I am not alone in this struggle and so for others who face similar tensions around fully disconnecting while on vacation (even if only for a weekend) – hopefully I have offered some food for thought.

References:

De Bloom, J., Geurts, S. A. E., & Kompier, M. A. J. (2012). Effects of short vacations, vacation
activities and experiences on employee health and well-being. Stress & Health, 28(4), 305–318.

Nawijn, J., Marchand, M. A., Veenhoven, R., & Vingerhoets, A. J. (2010). Vacationers happier, but most not happier after a holiday. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 5(1), 35-47.

Pearce, P.L. (2011). Tourist behaviour and the contemporary world. Bristol: Channel View.

Pearce, P. & Gretzel, U. (2012). Tourism in technology dead zones: documenting experiential dimensions. International Journal of Tourism Sciences, 12(2), 1-20.

Petrick, J. F., & Huether, D. (2013). Is Travel Better Than Chocolate and Wine? The Benefits of Travel A Special Series. Journal of Travel Research, 52(6), 705-708.

Westman, M.,& Etzion, D. (2001). The impact of vacation and job stress on burnout and absenteeism.
Psychology and Health, 16(5), 595–606.

White, N.R. & White, P.B. (2007) Home and away: Tourists in a connected world. Annals of Tourism Research, 34(1), 88-104.

 

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