Pakistan is one of the few industrialised nations that does not require all employers to provide their workers with mandatory vacation or sick time. However, companies are beginning to realise the benefits of vacations, which include fewer sick days, smaller healthcare bills and a more motivated workforce – and are now encouraging employees to take their annual leave.

Unfortunately, we have become a nation of workaholics. In part, this is due to the macho culture of, “I can work more than you can. I don’t need sleep or rest.” For others, it is the guilt associated with taking days off. We have a distorted view that not taking time off and keeping our nose to the grindstone will advance our career or keep our jobs intact.

A study published in the medical journal Psychosomatic Medicine indicates that regular holidays are associated with a longer, healthier life as they protect against the ill effects of psychological stress. According to physicians and psychotherapists, just as sleep deprivation impedes your ability to think clearly and act decisively, lack of recreational activities keeps you from effectively processing information. Furthermore, lack of sleep and relaxation has a negative impact on your reflexes, resilience and ability to ward off infections.

Vacations can also improve job performance suggests a study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services, which states that the psychological benefits that come with vacations lead to better quality of life and improved work quality. The irony is that the vacation-deprived usually think they are doing everybody a favour by working themselves to the brink of exhaustion, whereas in reality they are costing everyone dearly as stress can lead to conflicts in the workplace and the inability to carry out job responsibilities.

Finally, research conducted by the University of Vienna concluded that after a vacation, subjects’ physical complaints, their quality of sleep and mood had improved considerably. In fact, it led to the experience of fewer stressful days up to five weeks later.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan
The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting, Training, eLearning.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 6, 2012.