Working Malaysians are in desperate need of a holiday, according to the results of a recent travel study.
The 2017 Vacation Deprivation Study, commissioned by travel booking website Expedia, reveals that Malaysia is the third most vacation deprived country in the world.
According to the study, almost two-thirds of Malaysian respondents (65%) described themselves as very or somewhat vacation deprived, with 52% cancelling their holiday plans due to work. Meanwhile, only 37% respondents of the 400 participants surveyed took all their entitled leaves.
Expedia general manager (South-East Asia and India) Simon Fiquet says the results aren’t surprising since Malaysia is one of the most socially engaged markets in the world.
“Employees in Malaysia find it hard to detach themselves from work but this also evidently corroborates that Malaysians don’t get to fully enjoy their vacation,” he says.
More than one third of Malaysians (35%) checked their work-related e-mail or voicemail at least once a day while on vacation and 38% felt stressed after checking in.
Being able to spend quality time, according to Fiquet, is a critical part of work-life balance. It’s a sentiment echoed by local organisational psychologist Hetal Doshi-Suhana Daswani.
“There’s a part of your brain called dopamine that will be overworked. Humans are numbing themselves when they overwork and this will cause them to overreact at other things in life,” she says, adding that this will lead to discord at home.
Taking a break, Hetal adds, might even help you with career progression.
“If you’re able to take the time out to tune out everything, it is likely that you will get promoted faster – purely because you understand and think better,” she says.
How to holiday
Hetal says there is an art to taking vacations at the workplace. Or at least there should be better communication between employees and their employer.
“There’s a general non-understanding about vacationing for working people. When we ask some employees, they have this perception that their bosses don’t encourage them to go on holidays. But that might not always be the case,” she says.
She adds that there is also something called “vacation shaming” here.
“There is this whole issue of what my colleagues might think about me if I go on a holiday. That sense of envy and jealousy can also take place among some people at the office,” she explains, adding that the local culture here varies from that in Australia where employees are encouraged to take a break. The silver lining is that 72% of those surveyed believe it is their right to take a vacation without feeling guilty.
How to successfully go a holiday from work then?
Constantly remind people about your vacation plans, answers Hetal.
“One of the reasons people cancel is because they forget to remind their colleagues and their bosses that they will be going away,” she says.
Then there’s also what she likes to call the debit-credit system.
“Get your colleagues to cover for you while you’re away. When it’s time for them to take their own vacation, make sure you do the same and help them out with their workload,” Hetal offers.
As someone who holds a managerial position, Fiquet tries to set a positive example to his staff by going on vacation and disconnecting from any work issues.
“I take all my leave. When I’m on a holiday, I try not to check my e-mail. But if something really urgent pops up, my team can reach me on WhatsApp,” he says, adding that he always remind his employees to take their holidays.
Taking a toll
The Expedia study revealed that vacation deprivation is on a rise around the globe, with 53% of full-time working adults globally feeling vacation-deprived last year.
Asia Pacific leads the pack as the most vacation-deprived region, with South Korea topping the list as the most vacation-deprived country. Over 81% of full-time working South Koreans feel deprived of vacations.
Meanwhile, France comes second globally at 66%. The least vacation-deprived country is Norway (38%).
Zeroing in on the trends across industry sectors reveal that marketing and media as well as food and beverage industries – all known for tight deadlines and long working hours – emerged as the two most vacation-deprived globally.
Fiquet hopes that the results from the study will serve as a wake-up call for working adults and companies.
“It should be a debate here frankly. Vacation deprivation is not good for personal development nor is it good for the companies’ productivity level,” he says.
Hetal says workplace stress is growing rapidly and should be taken more seriously.
“Workplace and personal stress are increasingly affecting employee well-being at a global scale, and the World Health Organization has called this the ‘health epidemic of the 21st Century’. Taking time off is a good way to recover,” she stresses.
But how does one actually define a vacation?
“It means going away and doing something different. It’s not just about taking a break. Taking a break means resting. Vacation is more about going somewhere to unwind,” Fiquet concludes.