Episode 115: Are We More Productive When We Have More Time Off?

The 90th Percentile: An Unconventional Leadership Podcast

Published: July 26, 2023


Vacation time—the sacred period where you can put your feet up, escape from spreadsheets, and unleash your inner happiness. It’s crucial for our well-being, both mental and physical.  Vacations reduce stress, increase productivity, and help you avoid burnout. However, we live in a fast-paced world where busyness is glorified. People wear their never-ending to-do lists like badges of honor, fearing that if they take time off, they’ll miss out or appear lazy. In this podcast episode, we’re taking a hard look at employee productivity and whether or not we need that vacation time off.

Key Learnings

  • In a dataset of 2,310 respondents, we looked at data from the 20 countries with the most paid vacation days (247 respondents) and compared them to respondents in the United States (1,151). The 20 countries with the most vacation ranged from Australia, with 28 days allotted, to Sweden and Brazil, with 41 days. By contrast, the United States has no law requiring paid time off, and the average full-time worker with a year of service gets 10 paid vacation days (and only 25% of Americans take their full allotment, according to another survey).

  • First, we found that leaders in countries with more paid vacation days actually tend to seem slightly more likely to work at a faster pace, have a higher quantity focus, and feel more impatient.

  • “If I were able to move faster, I could become much more effective.” Respondents from countries with more paid vacation days responded more positively to this thought.
  • Numerous studies have shown that individuals who prioritize time off for family, hobbies, and self-care are more satisfied with their lives and demonstrate higher levels of commitment and productivity at work.
  • Academic research consistently supports the notion that individuals who prioritize rest, recreation, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance achieve higher levels of productivity.

Connect with Joe Folkman


Zenger Folkman hosts an exclusive live webinar every month, where you can meet Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman and talk about their latest leadership development research. Find out more information and register here.


Are We More Productive When We Have More Time Off?— HBR Article by Joe Folkman and Jack Zenger