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by Nicole Weber | August 14, 2014


The last two weeks of August are upon us. Still not sure if you will take vacation? Thinking you might just take a long weekend instead of a full week off, because there’s just too much to do? Or are you thinking, it’s a slow time at the office, may as well stick around and be productive while things are quiet? Think again.

Neuroscientist, musician, professor and best-selling author Daniel J. Levitin’s new book addresses the importance of giving your brain a real rest from work in order to improve productivity and creativity. In many ways Levitin reminds us of what we already know, but too often forget, and he backs it up with hard scientific findings. The human ability to switch between intense focus and mind-wandering is one of our species’ “crowning achievements.” It is those periods of uninterrupted daydreaming that make our working time all the more successful, because they open the door for more creative thinking and allow us to gain perspective on the task at hand. The ability to switch between focus and daydreaming is constantly being challenged by information overload and access to mobile communication. Let it erode completely, and the creative periods of zone-out time will become fewer, and be less effective at promoting success at work.

Forbes reported on a study earlier this summer that found that 46 percent of employees feel obligated to check their email while on vacation, and 26 percent feel guilty using all of their vacation time. Break out the latter statistic by generation, and its 40 percent for millennials and 18 percent for baby boomers. This is depressing, folks! As my colleague Phil Stott wrote on our blog today, German auto company Daimler has decided to take matters into its own hands and offer employees the option of auto-deleting emails that come in while they are on vacation, so as to mitigate the stress of returning to a clogged inbox. The feature would involve an auto-reply informing the sender that the email has been deleted and providing an alternate point of contact.

Whether or not Daimler’s pilot program is the answer for everyone, the concept of really, seriously shutting off on vacation should be. So if you haven’t already submitted your request for time off, do it now!

Read More:

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain (NYT)
Vacation Auto-delete for Email: Good Policy or Bad for Business? (Vault)
You're Probably Checking Your Work Email On Vacation--But You Shouldn't Be, Study Shows (Forbes)

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues