The vacation-deprived: Who these people are, and why they matter

Asia-Pacific is the most vacation-deprived region in the world. Are companies here ensuring that their people are taking some much-needed time off?

About the author

Eve Chong, Head of HR, Expedia Asia

Vacations play an important role in fostering healthy workplaces and healthy employees. In fact, a recent study by Expedia showed that 66% of full-time Singaporean workers come back to work from vacations more relaxed, with 53% saying that vacations are important for their general health and well-being.

More often than not, there is a fine balance to be struck between extending the ideal number of annual leave to employees and allowing a hit on overall business productivity. While this is very much dependent on the industry that you are in, the nature of your work and the culture of your workplace, studies have shown that people who take their annual leave become more productive and are happier at work.

When it comes to taking leave for vacations, the ever-growing to-do lists and inability to find the right window to take a break can be real obstacles that prevent employees from going on leave. However, business leaders, HR professionals, and employees need to be keenly aware of the importance of vacations in contributing to their professional and personal well-being, in order to take necessary steps to ensure that their people go on meaningful breaks that keep them motivated, driven and inspired at work.

Vacation deprivation on the rise globally

One worrying trend that we’ve observed from the Expedia’s 2017 Vacation Deprivation Study – which looked at the vacation habits of over 15,000 working adults across 30 countries globally – was that vacation deprivation is on the rise all across the globe. According to the study, 53% of full-time working adults globally describe themselves as being vacation-deprived, an increase of four percentage points from the 49% recorded the year before.

When comparing the sentiments of full-time workers across regions, Asia Pacific emerged as the most vacation-deprived region, with South Korea topping the list as the most vacation-deprived country with 81% of full-time working adults feeling deprived of vacations, followed by Malaysia with 65% and Hong Kong with 64%.

While Singapore did not rank among the top three, the city-state still emerged among the top seven most vacation-deprived countries in the world with 57% of full-time workers in Singapore feeling vacation-deprived. What was even more intriguing was that 56% of full-time workers in Singapore spend time at work dreaming about vacations, and 63% spend time at work planning their vacations, taking precious time at work thinking about holidays even though they have not left their work desk!

Feelings of deprivation not due to less days off?

Diving deeper into the reasons behind the feelings of vacation deprivation among Singaporean workers, the study revealed that close to half (47%) of full-time workers in Singapore take fewer days of annual leave than the amount they receive – for reasons that did not stem from the lack of annual leave or lack of support from their employers.

In fact, six in 10 Singaporeans agreed that their employers are supportive of them going on vacations. At Expedia, we actively promote and cultivate a culture of work life balance, where our employees are encouraged to leverage of their travel perks or employee benefits to go on leave and disconnect.

While this is a form of implementing a healthy workforce, our report indicates that on average, general employees in Singapore take 14 days of annual leave a year, less than the 15 days of annual leave they receive on average. This was largely a result of:

  • Employees’ desire to save their leave in case something comes up in the future (45%);
  • Employees’ work schedules do not allow for vacation/ insufficient resources to cover the work (37%); and
  • Difficulty in coordinating time to take a vacation that works with family / partner / friend (30%).

While we also considered that rising sentiments of vacation deprivation could be due to Asian countries receiving significantly less annual leave than their counterparts in Europe and Latin America, France – whose workers take all 30 vacation days they receive from employers – still ranked second on the list of most vacation-deprived countries globally.

Conversely, only 48% of full-time workers in Japan reported feelings of vacation deprivation despite only taking an average of 10 vacation days off out of an average of 20 vacation days given. Looking at these examples, it looks like the number of vacation days one receives does not have a direct correlation to feelings of vacation deprivation, with factors such as culture and social norms contributing to the complex nature of vacation deprivation as well.

The doctor's orders: Take more holidays

Putting social and culture norms aside, vacations play an important role in fostering the personal and professional well-being for full-time workers in Singapore. Over half of Singaporeans agreed that vacations are important for their general health and well-being, 44% said that vacations are important for their relationship with their significant other, and 41% said that they help them feel better connected to friends and family.

On the professional front, 66% of full-time workers in Singapore return from vacations more relaxed, 45% return more focused, 44% return more productive, 41% return with a better attitude, and 36% return with the ability to think more holistically.

With wide-ranging benefits associated with taking time off for vacations, it is important that companies continue to ensure that employees take full advantage of their annual leave allocation, and schedule time off at appropriate times to relax and recharge to boost their personal and professional well-being. In the long run, this makes for happier, healthier employees, who will then be able to make better and bigger contributions at work.

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