Taking breaks – The underestimated effects or re-charging  

Welcome to this month YSSC What’s on contribution! You might have noticed that we talked a lot about applications, CVs, posters and presentations in the past few editions. All about work and science. We are pretty sure you work hard to achieve your accomplishments, be them your PhD thesis, your paper, a postdoc position or a grant. But… have you recently been on holidays?

Let’s be honest: There are two sides of this topic. We are humans, so (most likely) we like having time off from work. But we are also scientists and, as such, we are quite reluctant to take a break We have cells, animals, long-term experiments planned or running, deadlines to stick to, expectations to fulfil (from our PI or ourselves) and data to analyse. Letting all this go for a while is not easy.

A situation many of us have probably faced when talking to people who don’t work in science, is them asking: “You work such long hours? And sometimes on the weekend? Well, I hope you at least get paid extra for the extra efforts!” Probable reactions of scientists in this situation are: Sigh and laughter. No we don’t! And most of us don`t bother, well at least not enough to stop working late and on weekends. Why? Good question! But almost very scientist has an answer to it.

However, we must consider that taking a break from work can stimulate new ideas and help overcome problems you were fighting for quite a while and, with that, increase your productivity. It can also be a motivation to get things done before you go. Getting your work-life balance in shape is an issue that has been somewhat overlooked to date, but things now have begun to change. The importance of having such a time for yourself and beloved ones has been increasingly recognised, as burn out and work-related illnesses emerge. Whether it is more convenient for you and your project to take several short vacations or less but longer ones are a personal and work decision. No matter how you decide it, taking them is something important and heavily underestimated. It’s worth making yourself aware what happens to annual leave you have not used, can you use it next year? Are the days lost? How long can it be holidays can you take in general? Regulations change in every institution/country. This information can be found in your working contract or institution regulations and depend on the grant/institution that funds you. Your health is worth investing a moment to answer those questions. Usually questions and problems wait for you to return, but you might see them from a different angle afterwards and tackle them more efficiently.

Needless to say, it is important to discuss your need for holidays with your PI and plan accordingly so you do not jeopardise your project development. Holidays are meant to improve you and your project. Give it the necessary attention!

So enjoy your summer/winter! No matter whether you stay at home, go away or… give in to your inner nerd and stay in the lab.

Have a good one!