Workers Spend The First Day Of Their Vacations Stressed Out
It takes almost a day for U.K. vacationers to start enjoying their vacations, according to a survey of 2,000 adults. One third of these travelers start worrying about the stress of getting home within three days of arriving, and immediately after returning home, nearly half of them said that they felt so stressed that they needed another vacation.
Unpacking, settling into a hotel, adjusting to jet lag, and generally recovering from the journey, takes an average of 21 hours and 31 minutes, according to the study by London-based holiday rentals company HomeAway.co.uk. A quarter of the respondents said it took two full days -- half of the average vacation.
This might be a First World problem. But it is a problem. In the U.S. even more than in the U.K., employees are often so overworked, that it can take some mental muscle to adjust to the reality of a break. A November 2011 study by Expedia found that European workers considered vacation a central part of employment, while American workers deemed it a luxury. This may explain why American employees receive half the vacation time of Europeans, and last year took off only 12 days of their average allotment of 14.
"Europeans work to live, feeling vacation is a right rather than a privilege," said Scott Durchslag, president of Expedia Worldwide. "Americans can often live to work, viewing vacations as a guilty privilege to be downplayed around the workplace -- especially if they are worried about their jobs."
And when vacationers find their trip "stressful," "neutral" or even "relaxing," their happiness depletes down to its baseline level as soon as they land back on home turf, according to a 2010 study of 1,530 Dutch adults. Only when travelers said that they were "very relaxed" did they experience a two-week mood boost. The researchers found that most of the happiness associated with traveling actually came from planning and anticipating the trip.
If we want to actually feel "very relaxed" during our vacations, and bask in our tans and depleted cortisol levels in their wake, HomeAway.co.uk recommends renting a vacation property, as opposed to staying in a hotel.
Then again, HomeAway.co.uk is a vacation rental company. It might be even more productive if Americans were to try to shake the sense that vacations are a "guilty privilege," and to instead embrace them as essential to their productivity as workers, and their mental health as human beings.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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