Ah, the sweet relief of taking a long-awaited vacation—relaxing on the beach with friends, exploring new cultures, and just being away from work! While engineers may dream of a getaway, that's not always possible due to their demanding job duties. That’s right; engineers don’t often find themselves relaxing in hammocks near swaying palm trees. But why?
Let’s look at the top four reasons why it’s hard for an engineer to take a well-deserved break and why they absolutely should.
1) Returning to a Mountain of Work
Engineers work hard. But when it comes to taking time off for some well-deserved “R&R”, they find themselves in quite a conundrum: with project schedules so tight, engineers have the sense that if they take a vacation, a mountain of work will accumulate. However, studies prove that periodic breaks benefit both productivity and overall health, meaning vacations actually improve an engineer's work performance.
So, what's an engineer to do? Go ahead and take that needed break, and in order to ensure workload issues don’t arise, engineers can:
- Delegate responsibilities more
- Automate tasks where possible
- Keep communication open with managers and project leads
2) Being Seen as Replaceable
Many engineers think: If I don't show up at the office everyday, how will my boss know I'm irreplaceable? Instead, what they should be focusing on is making themselves REPLACEABLE! Hear us out:
Being replaceable isn’t a bad thing. It just means that someone else at your workplace can do the job, which is great for an engineering firm as it creates redundancy and reduces its reliance on any single employee. But even if a manager thinks someone else can get the job done, it doesn't mean they don't value an individual's contribution.
Even if an engineer is replaceable, it doesn't mean a boss would want or need to replace them. Replacing employees requires significant investments of time and money, making finding, hiring, and training a new person a real challenge.
3) Company Culture Discourages Vacation
In engineering culture, taking a vacation is often seen as something you shouldn't do. It can be viewed as a sign of lacking commitment or unprofessionalism, which is incredibly frustrating for engineers who try (and need) to have a life outside of work! On top of that, it just leads to burnout and exhaustion.
The good news is there are ways to get around this unfortunate company culture:
Engineers should be encouraged to take vacations when fewer major projects or deadlines are coming up. Taking off during crunch periods makes things harder for everyone else and can make it seem like someone is purposely bailing when workloads are heavy.
Engineers can try to get creative with time off. Instead of a regular week-long holiday, a few shorter trips throughout the year can be a less stressful proposition.
Most importantly, vacations are essential for mental and physical health. When the pressures of work culture get in the way of any workers taking care of themselves, burnout and reduced productivity result. Sometimes engineers just need to be encouraged to go spend time with their families or do something they love!
4) Hoarding Vacation Days
Ah, engineers... always so industrious and hard-working. But who said that taking a vacation isn’t also hard work? Unfortunately, engineers seem to have a reputation for hoarding their vacation days and never taking time off to relax. Instead, they spend all their free time tinkering away in the basement or solving equations - because when you’re an engineer, it’s really hard to unplug and turn your brain off!
But is this really true? According to a recent study, yes! In fact, in 2018, 768 million days of American vacation time weren't taken! And of those who did take a vacation, 66% said they work while on vacation. So much for R&R!
Engineers may have a lot of reasons why they don't take vacations, but at the end of the day, it’s important they take time off to rejuvenate and come back to projects with renewed perspectives. Part of their role is to be creative and problem solve on major (and sometimes expensive!) projects. Taking a break from work reduces stress and fatigue, allowing engineers to return to their job with a refreshed and energized mindset. Additionally, taking a vacation provides engineers with the opportunity to gain new perspectives and ideas, which can be beneficial for their work.
Structural Engineering Blog
Want frequent tips and tricks on the latest developments in structural engineering? Subscribe to our blog, where we dive into specific advice on how to best approach certain projects, offer industry resources and insight, and occasionally take a deep dive into how best to use structural analysis software.