Why you should encourage workers to take time off


  • The U.S. is becoming a society of workaholics, with forty percent of workers putting in more than 50 hours a week.
  • Studies show workers that take time off are happier, less stressed and more productive.
  • Construction business owners should set up and foster a culture that encourages workers to take time off and focus on their mental health and well-being.

It’s probably safe to say that Americans are workaholics.

About four in 10 workers across all industries report working 50 or more hours per week, and the average full-time employee reports working 47 hours per week, according to a Gallup poll. Americans also take fewer vacation days, on average, compared to other countries. Workers don’t even always take the time they’re given.

Longer hours, less work done

In the construction industry, workers are also logging longer hours than in years past. In 2017, the average workweek consisted of 39.6 hours, compared to 38.4 in 2015, according to one analysis. During the summer, the average grew to 40.5 from June to August 2017.

Experts attribute the longer hours to a thinner construction workforce and say it may be contributing to the decline in construction productivity. Working too much can lead to absenteeism, high turnover, high insurance costs, and other issues affecting workers and business owners alike.

To mitigate these issues, construction bosses should encourage workers to take time off, which research suggests will improve productivity, job performance, job satisfaction, and overall happiness.

Time off can help

The American Psychological Association’s 2018 Work and Well-Being Survey released in June reveals that feelings of job stress, being overworked, and lack of support to take time off is affecting workers across industries. The survey reveals some key findings about how workers see time off, including:

  • Nine in 10 used paid or unpaid vacation time in the past year, but
  • 27 percent haven’t taken a day off in the past six months,
  • 36 percent left paid vacation time unused last year,
  • 76 percent say taking time off is important—however, less than half say their company culture encourages time off, and only 38 percent say their supervisor encourages it

When workers returned to work after taking time off, they reported better moods and were more productive.

Employees say their workload often makes it difficult to take off. Others say they’ll miss out on important information or opportunities if they take off. They might also feel guilty and worry that they’ll be perceived as less committed to their jobs.

However, when workers returned to work after taking time off, they reported better moods, more energy and motivation, and reduced stress. They were also more productive and produced higher-quality work.

Make them stay away (for a day)

Companies and supervisors have a major influence on how employees perceive time off—and on how they experience the benefits of taking a day or two off. For instance, when organizations encourage time off, employees say that the benefits of vacation time last longer, according to the APA study.

To foster a company culture that encourages people to take time off for their mental health and well-being, construction business owners can follow these tips:

  • Create a plan for how tasks will be handled when an employee is off.
  • Cross-train workers so that team members can cover for co-workers when they take off.
  • Encourage teams to plan ahead and schedule vacation time in advance.
  • Coordinate time off during less-busy times.
  • Make sure managers track vacation time and encourage the use of time off.
  • Train leaders to notice the signs of stress and how to support stress recovery.
  • Set aside time for workers to get caught up when they get back.
  • Avoid overloading employees on their first day or two back after taking time off.

Most organizations likely don’t outwardly discourage taking time off—but make sure that the company culture isn’t subtly discouraging it, either.

Leaders should celebrate the idea of taking a day off in the name of stress relief. Happy, stress-free employees are more productive and report improved work satisfaction—both of which are good for business.

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