When people are busy, it is all too easy to simply clock up the extra hours to get things done.  However, working for long hours over prolonged periods can cause stress and stress-related illnesses.

Perhaps it is time to tell therefore to tell your team that time off work is great for productivity, according to research conducted by Sonnentag and Fritz and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

You might not feel that you need a University Professor to tell you breaks are good for you as well as your team, but the scientific data proves it. Taking leave really does recharge the batteries. People are happier and more energetic when they return to work after a good break.

A few years ago, Sabine Sonnentag, a Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at the University of Konstanz in Germany, studied the performance of 221 workers before and after they took a holiday, as well as what they did on it. The results showed people were happier and less tired and found tasks easier to accomplish for at least two weeks after their return from holidays than before they took time off.

Interestingly, Sabine found that the beneficial effects are maximised if people use the time to learn a new skill as well as switch off from work.

Sonnentag and a colleague, Charlotte Fritz, found those who mastered a new skill or tackled a challenge felt more energetic two weeks after returning to work than before the holiday. They also found it was good to practice positive thinking on holidays.

However, they found the positive effects of holidays faded quickly if people faced an extra workload on return. Those who brooded on work politics and dwelt on unfinished business were more likely to report feeling exhausted soon after their return than those who switched off in the holidays or reflected on the good things about work.

This has interesting implications for managers and employers as recent studies suggest that as many as 20% of Britain’s working population take less than their full holiday entitlements.  The moral of the story is therefore to make sure that your staff have the right amount of holidays as they will be refreshed, more productive and engaged on their return.