Three myths about vacation and productivity
The first myth - Beware of the employer that tells you: "Vacations are good for recharging the batteries." That's a nice metaphor. But when was the last time you saw a 9-volt lounging at the pool? Sure, if you engage in physical labor - assembling widgets, shooting hoops, or touch-typing court proceedings - a vacation will help heal joints and stave off repetitive stress injury. But if you are reading this column, you are likely a knowledge worker. If you are paid to do things like opine why yuan revaluation will impact Arcelor-Mittal's demand forecast or speculate how a new telenovela will affect media buying in Belo Horizonte, then two weeks on the beach will not necessarily make you any smarter than a weekend away from the office. Or at least I haven't seen any research showing the optimal downtime for intellectual labor. I am not convinced that a long vacation recharges brain cells.
The second myth - often sold by the alluring posters of Club Med- is that a vacation is an oasis of peace and quiet. To bust this myth, you only have to turn to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert's conclusion about a trip to Disneyland with the kids: while there, we are completely aware that the hotels are overpriced, that the second-long rides have hour-long waits and that the food is truly awful. Yet, in the end, our brain fools us into reflecting on the wonderful time and forgetting about how truly stressful family bonding can be.
It's not just parents with kids that encounter stress on vacation. In these days of too much information, kid-free couples have other things to worry about. Perhaps the beach resort they booked at was not rated No. 1 on TripAdvisor, or that the plane tickets could have cost less on Priceline, or that they might not look supremely shapely in their new swimsuits. They are anxious about not getting the maximum juice out of the vacation. And for singletons, it's even worse. You are on permanent heightened alert, hoping that this will be the vacation that finally changes your Facebook status. The inconvenient truth is that the most relaxing part of the vacation is the day we return to work.
(For more, read Prof. Bottger's article; Of course you need a vacation)
Finally, the third myth is that employers care a lot about productivity. They do, but not as much as commitment. Scholars that study assembly line as well as professional service work have concluded that the corporation cares more about capturing your soul than it does your labor. Note Barcelona's enthusiasm to sign World Cup star Cesc Fabergas. Or the public outrage from owner Dan Gilbert at LeBron James's "great betrayal" in leaving the Cavaliers. Both teams are more concerned with demonstrating that they have the power to pull and retain talent than they are with the number of goals or hoops their stars might get.
In creative and intellectual industries, pulling power for tomorrow contributes more to share-price than today's productivity. So what employers really care about is knowing that you'll stay committed, regardless of whether you're at the office or on the beach. The insightful sociologist Mark Suchman once told me of a billboard that bothered him. It showed a woman lounging on a beach chair typing away on her laptop. The caption read: "In the office of the future, there will be no office." Suchman said: "While my eyes read the caption accurately, my brain offered a mischievous - but truer - reading: In the vacation of the future, there is no vacation."
August 20, 2010; 10:34 AM ET |
Corporate social responsibility
Save & Share:
Previous: Of course you need a vacation | Next: Mosque controversy showcases failure to lead American public to understanding
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: mattsoundworld | August 22, 2010 9:03 PM
Posted by: ACounter | August 22, 2010 6:45 PM
Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | August 22, 2010 6:02 PM
Posted by: carlos4 | August 22, 2010 5:16 PM
Posted by: alance | August 22, 2010 4:06 PM
Posted by: rohit57 | August 22, 2010 12:49 PM
Posted by: pjohn2 | August 22, 2010 12:41 PM
Posted by: pierrecasteneda | August 22, 2010 11:28 AM
Posted by: datdamwuf2 | August 22, 2010 10:01 AM
Posted by: frausch | August 22, 2010 9:40 AM
Posted by: docwhocuts | August 22, 2010 8:52 AM
Posted by: minorthread | August 22, 2010 8:10 AM
Posted by: mj64 | August 22, 2010 7:20 AM
Posted by: tuchulcha | August 22, 2010 3:30 AM
Posted by: Abcdefg5 | August 22, 2010 3:11 AM
Posted by: Nardo2 | August 21, 2010 11:57 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.