Did you know that more than 1/3 of working Americans will not take their allotted vacation time this year? And if they do, half of the time they take work with them? What kind of vacation is that? What gives?
With so much economic uncertainty, plus high gas prices and a tough job market, many workers reason that they can’t afford to take a vacation, financially, career-wise, or both.
That’s a mistake, and here’s why: taking a vacation is a proven way to reduce stress and rejuvenate yourself. Vacations are an absolute physical and emotional necessity. You may be afraid to take one, but you will be better for it.
Studies show that vacations—appreciable time away from the demands of work— reduce stress, promote creativity, stave off burnout, strengthen personal and familial relationships, and help job performance. They are restorative—we sleep more, eat better, try new things, engage in favorite activities, and maybe even exercise a bit.
Management gurus say it all the time: taking frequent breaks from work promotes better brain activity and creative thinking. When someone is exhausted, stressed, and overworked, their mind shuts down and they are no longer productive or effective. Breaks are essential to productivity. Many forward-thinking companies have this figured out, like Zappos, which is why they feature lavish and funky break rooms with baristas, couches, scooters, massage therapists, and video games to help their employees disconnect and recharge.
The yearly two-week vacation is the equivalent to the fifteen-minute break in the workday; it is an essential component to one’s mental and physical health and the hallmark of a productive person.
But not all vacations are created equally. You have to make sure you choose the right vacation for you. That may sound obvious, but it’s not. Some vacations may actually cause more stress. Like to lie around and do nothing? Then a beach house is probably preferable to an ambitious trek through the cathedrals of Europe. Conversely, if you are a type A who loves to go-go-go, then two weeks at a remote lake house may make you crazy. The vacation you take should match both your interest and your energy level.
Whatever you do, don’t take your work with you. Unless you are running your own business where you might need to stay connected, you are not getting paid to respond to e-mails and voice mails. So leave the work and the gadgets behind.
However, for some people, just knowing that they can stay connected might help them alleviate the anxiety of even taking a vacation. In that case, by all means, take your gadgets with you. Remember: the point of a vacation is not necessarily to do nothing. The point is to disconnect and disengage yourself from your work, so that you are recharged, refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to reconnect, both at work and at home.
So, what are you waiting for? Happy vacation!