Vacation is a pretty simple and common concept, but its importance is not understood by most. As per the 2018 vacation deprivation report, released by the online travel portal Expedia, Indians feel that they are the most vacation deprived people in the world and rightly so, as they hardly take any ‘vacation time.’ The annual report which spans across 19 countries highlights that vacation deprivation is on the rise, and 75 percent of Indians feel vacation-deprived, which is the highest in the world, followed by South Korea (72 percent) and Hong Kong (69 percent). The study, which was conducted across North America, Europe, South America, and Asia-Pacific, showed that Indian workers also do not take all assigned vacation days and rank fifth in terms of markets that leave their vacations unused.
India: The most vacation-deprived nation
As many as 53 percent of Indians take fewer vacation days than they get, and 35 percent don't take leave as work schedule does not allow for vacation, or there are not enough staff to cover. This raises a serious question regarding the well-being of Indian employees. If employees need to overwork and sacrifice their vacation to meet the expectations of their employees, then organizations need to rethink their workforce management strategy. The study also reported that, employees who take vacation still do not avail their full vacation days because of reasons like missing out on important work decisions (25 percent), fear of being seen less committed (19 percent) or finding it difficult to coordinate time with their travel companion (33 percent) and 18 percent feel that those who are professionally successful, don’t take vacation days.
According to research from Software Company, Kimble Applications, 14 percent of respondents believed that not using all of their vacation time increased their opportunities for advancement. Funnily enough, India ranks third among the list of countries who feel ‘guilty’ to take a vacation. There is a long list of statistics published by Expedia stating the different reasons and conditions which makes taking vacations for Indians an almost impossible feat.
Why we feel guilty of taking a vacation from work
A closer look at the reasons of why this happens shows systemic and deep-rooted problems. If these challenges are not fixed urgently, they will create increasingly negative repercussions for the Indian workforce in the future. To start off with, there is a missing sense of stability among the employees, a prevailing feeling of being overworked and probably underpaid in some industries. A widespread notion that they simply cannot afford a vacation arises from a sense of insecurity and a feeling of being replaceable.
Next, we have given mileage to the false idea of ‘being busy equals success’ and ‘holidays are for losers’. This mindset highlights the toxic and unhealthy competitive culture that the workforce (Indian, possibly global) thrives on. What’s more, it is not just a vacation that Indians are deprived of, but also the necessities of life, such as sleep and a positive mental health. The common thread between the deprivations forms a vicious cycle in which Indians live and work and, unfortunately, take pride in.
Indian employees are also the most sleep-deprived
According to a study by Fitbit, India is the second most sleep-deprived country with an average night sleep of 7 hours and 1 minute. The study also added that sleep was not the only thing that Indians were lacking, as Indian employees scored the least in ‘healthy lifestyle,’ which primarily includes physical activity. The study found that India is also the least active country among 18 countries. These findings were echoed by an earlier WHO report, which states that at least 6.5 percent of the Indian population suffers from some form of severe mental disorder, with no discernible rural-urban differences. These statistics reveal a lot about the current status of the Indian workforce and the culture of overwork that exists in our country. The solution isn’t to force employees to take vacations and rejuvenate themselves; but to create a culture and work environment where they do not fear ‘missing out,’ ‘being replaced,’ ‘slower promotions,’ or any other worries if they took a vacation.
India’s overwhelming work culture is taking a toll on its employees. We live in a country that records highest in vacation-deprivation, sleep-deprivation, and mental health challenges, among other issues. Look closely and you will find that there is a common thread among all three; if your workers are not sleeping/resting well, vacation-deprived, and their mental health is at the question, then how can we even begin to talk about effective employee engagement? These challenges need to be identified and understood by employers if they wish to build a workforce that can succeed in the present and the future.