Expert Alert

How vacation impacts health

Humphrey School of Public Affairs Associate Professor Carrie Oelberger
Humphrey School of Public Affairs Associate Professor Carrie Oelberger. Credit: University of Minnesota

According to research from Pew, about 61% of workers say it’s extremely important to them personally to have a job that offers paid time off for vacations or other routine appointments. Humphrey School of Public Affairs Associate Professor Carrie Oelberger speaks to why we all need to take time to unplug to prevent burnout. 

Carrie Oelberger, Ph.D.

“Preventing burnout at work goes beyond purchasing self-care activities or products, like spa days or fancy lattes. It requires a systematic rethinking of how we develop supportive policies and organizational cultures. While supervisors play an important role in modeling work boundaries, there are things that employees can do to mitigate the propensity for work burnout: take vacation and use it to psychologically detach — don’t think about work during your break.”

“My research shows how people more easily detach from work when they feel supported by their supervisors and when the organizational culture models being fully offline during vacation time, without pesky emails or texts coming in from work. It is also important for employees to practice setting boundaries, as those who find their work most meaningful often have difficulty with this practice, given the extent to which their work embodies their values and informs their identities and sense of self-worth.” 

Carrie Oelberger is an associate professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Her research examines prosocial organizations’ internal dynamics. She details how ignoring these internal dynamics leads to a range of harmful outcomes, from systematic patterns of workforce burnout on an individual level to inequitable forms of decision-making on an organizational level, which end up harming the ecosystem of prosocial work, on an institutional level. She currently examines these dynamics across two crucial sets of actors within the prosocial ecosystem. Her fall semester course titled “Understanding and Avoiding Burnout” offers institutional, organizational and individual strategies to help employees engage in meaningful work without burning out.


About the Humphrey School of Public Affairs
The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is ranked as one of the country’s top professional public policy and planning schools. The School is long noted for equipping students to play key roles in public life at the local, state, national and global levels and offers six distinctive master’s degrees, a doctoral degree, and six certificate programs. Learn more at

About “Expert Alert”
University of Minnesota experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Find selected experts on the University’s Experts Guide or send requests to [email protected]

Media Contacts

Rachel Cain

University Public Relations