Take Vacation Now, Be More Productive Later

Woman in hammock using laptop
Hans Neleman | Stone | Getty Images
Woman in hammock using laptop

American workers should take breaks if they want to increase their productivity, and their employers must be more liberal in giving vacation time, said Tony Schwartz, chief executive of The Energy Project.

Schwartz, author of "the Way We're Working Isn't Working," told CNBC Monday companies ranging from Ford Motor to Goldman Sachs to Applehave turned to his company to help them provide more flexible and liberal vacation schedules to workers and have seen growth in productivity as a result.

"The idea is that human beings aren’t made to operate like computers running at high speeds continuously for long periods of time," he said. "We’re actually designed to pulse. Think about breathing. You don’t get any credit in life for breathing in if you can’t breathe out."

Even short breaks throughout the workday are good if they allow a person to be refreshed. However, many employers fear workers will take advantage of such a policy and there are also employees who get addicted to the adrenaline rush of working at a high level. Both are wrong, Schwartz said.

For employers, "you, in effect, bring people in, you have people on call, you make sure that when a person is engaged they’re fully engaged and when they’re at the limits of being able to be engaged they’re in a position to recover," Schwartz explained.

As for the employees, "We have made a mistake by thinking the way we value someone is by the number of hours they put in instead of the value they generate," he said. "If you hold them accountable to generating a certain amount of value and your measure them by the value they create…then you are shifting the focus to what really matters."