A vacation can never last too long, right?
Actually, believe it or not, it can. And a few years ago, researchers decided to find out how long the “perfect” vacation, that allows you to de-stress from work, actually is.
In a New York Times article in 1910, William Taft (our 27th president) stated, “[…] 2 or 3 months’ vacation […] are necessary in order to continue work the next year with that energy and effectiveness which it ought to have.” (“How long should a man’s vacation be?,” 1910, July 31). Most of us don’t have that much vacation time nowadays (I kinda doubt John Q. Public of 1910 had that much vacation time available, either), and apparently that much time away isn’t the best way to de-stress, anyway. At least not if you work.
Researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands looked at a small sample of people’s work-related stress levels over the course of their vacations and discovered that being away between 7 and 11 days long was the most effective at reducing work-related stress. Even more specifically, they found that relaxation levels among people tended to peak right around the eighth day of a break.
If vacations were longer than 7 to 11 days, their observation was that people started to worry about their inbox and tasks piling up back at the office.
If their time away was shorter (read: long weekends), employees weren’t able to recover enough, “…due to increasingly permeable boundaries between work and home domains, long working hours, working overtime and prolonged physiological activation as a result of preoccupation with work.”
Unfortunately, regardless of the length of your vacation, you can expect your work-related stress levels to creep back to an unfortunate normal pretty quickly. As per the researchers, participants “rapidly returned to baseline level within the first week of work resumption.”
And that, my friends, could be the unscientific reason for “back to work blues.”
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary