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I recently had a holiday after quite a long period of not having any significant time off, and it was in the run up to that and a discussion about holidays that set my mind thinking about the nature of a holiday and what one is for. By that I don’t mean a discussion of beach holiday vs activity holiday vs sightseeing etc. This is more about what holidays end up being.

Part of the reason for this thinking was, as well as having had a long spell without a break (at least by UK standards), the holiday also followed on a period of covering for another member of staff for 3 weeks and in the last of those 3 weeks covering in part for another member of staff.

I’m not begrudging anyone their holiday or how they take them. My colleague who took 3 weeks off in one go had every right to and had sacrificed holiday at other times to ensure they could have the 3 weeks. A separate issue is how my workplace dealt with cover for that leave, but that is past and hopefully lessons have been learnt.

Needless to say, at the end of 3 weeks doing 2 and a bits worth of workload, I was somewhat tired. I normally don’t sleep well and joke that my body hates me in relation to sleeping. During the final week, sleep was not an issue I was so drained by the end of the work day. Clearly I needed a holiday!

However, in that exhausted state, is it really possible to have a holiday. A friend described their holidays as less of a holiday and more of a ‘flop’ in relation to doing nothing. Now some would argue that a beach holiday is a bit of a ‘flop’ type holiday, but for me that is missing the point that my friend was making.

So the question is where should the balance be for a holiday in the range of having a break from work to do something you want to at one end, through to it being needed as a chance to recharge your batteries so that you can function at work again.

I would hope that for most people, it should be swinging towards the ‘do something you want to’ side of the swingometer. Possibly I’ll be classed as lazy by saying this, though I would say that those who know me would argue against that, but I don’t feel that work should leave you in a state when you need the holiday just to survive. I don’t believe that it is lazy or wrong to have the view that one should work to live. Nothing in that says that you don’t do an honest hard day of work. It’s just about priorities.

My fear is that the work environment has moved and that people are under so much pressure that they feel that have to work until they can’t anymore and then use their holiday (if they feel they can take it without it looking bad) to recharge ready for the next period of work. This isn’t productive and recent research has shown this. The UK being less productive in hours worked than other countries who have shorter working days or weeks.

People need to reclaim their holiday time so that they can ‘do’ something on holiday other than recover. There are a range of great holidays people can have in their time off, but if all they feel they can use their holidays for is recharging, then they will miss out on some wonderful experiences.