Vacations are the Link to Better Health, Happiness, and Productivity
When was the last time you truly took time off from work? Many utilize their paid vacation time, but they are still checking work emails while away from the office. There is an increasing group of those who do not fully utilize most, or any, of their vacation time. This increasing trend is creating negative impacts on our health, happiness, and productivity.
In the final installment in this series, we explore the benefits of taking a vacation, including the ideal length of time off from work, in order to reap the maximum benefits that vacations have to offer.
According to a 2014 Alamo study, 40% of workers did not use all of their paid time off. Nineteen percent did not use at least five days of their paid time off. The excuse that many give for not taking time off is that they are simply too busy. Millennials are most guilty for not using their vacation time. Of the Millennials polled, the most common response was that they
felt guilty for taking time off. This workaholic mentality is detrimental to one’s health and productivity.
What is even worse than not taking any time off is to take a vacation, but still be working. The ability to check work email at anytime, from anywhere has created an unspoken expectation to continue working even when you are not at work. This expectation can come from both us and from higher management. In the same aforementioned study, only 54% of those who used all of their paid time off were able to completely disconnect, while only 37% of those who did not use all of their time were able to completely disconnect from work while on vacation.
These statistics are alarming. Even if people are taking time off for vacation, regardless if they are traveling or having a stay-cation, they are still checking in to work. In effect, then, there is no true time away from the stressors of work.
The lack of time away from work has significant effects on our physical and emotional wellbeing. Not taking a vacation for one year can increase the risk of a heart attack or fatal heart condition. There is also a positive correlation between the rates of depression and the number of hours spent working without true breaks.
A Finnish study show that the ideal length of a vacation is eight days. This amount of time allows for rest, relaxation, and enjoyment without creating boredom. In reality, being away from the office for eight days will not allow much of a backlog to accumulate; that one could not catch up on emails and phone messages in a reasonable amount of time once back in the office. Plus, since you know when you vacation will be, you can plan ahead to accomplish the tasks you know will be due while you are away before you even leave the office. Doing so dramatically decreases the amount of catching up you have to do when you return.
Taking a vacation will not only increase your overall health, to include mental health, but can also increase productivity. The best types of vacations are ones that incorporate relaxation with learning something new. Taking a yoga class, going on a guided hike, or learning to surf can increase relaxation, which will result in long-term positive effects on both health and attitude.
Vacations have such a positive impact on the rates of productivity and absenteeism, that some companies pay their employees to take time off. These forward-thinking organizations understand that completely unplugging froth duties and stresses of work while on vacation is the
key to reaping the benefits of a boosted morale. The results they have seen include an increase in productivity, happier teams, and an increase in both retention and recruitment.
Perhaps the biggest result seen in these organizations is the creation of a level playing field. Paying the staff to take a vacation eliminates guilt and the feeling that not taking time off makes you a more dedicated team member.
Everyone needs a break and failing to use all od your paid time off by the end of the year is not benefiting anyone. The health benefits alone make a great case to schedule time off. Vacations do not need to be elaborate to reap the benefits. You can simply stay at home and take day trips. The only thing that you need to do is to shut off your work email, detach yourself from co- workers and never-ending duties, and enjoy your time away from the office.
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