Vacations often get a bad rap, but it turns out they’re great for business.
In America, vacations have been historically seen as lazy, unnecessary, and indulgent. Over the last year, however, people are discovering the value of a good life-work balance. After the COVID lockdown disrupted work schedules, employees are adapting to having more flexibility in their jobs and finding value in other parts of their life, such as family and relationships.
While European workers take about six weeks off per year, Americans barely use the average 10 days of paid time off annually. Fortunately, the cultural stigma attached to American vacations may be starting to wear off. According to a survey by Korn Ferry, 79% of employees intend to use more vacation days this year than in the past, and 82% said that they will check in with work less frequently during time off.
Here are some reasons why people don’t take a vacation:
- They feel guilty about not getting work done
- Their job doesn’t offer paid vacation and they don’t want to lose money or are denied time off
- They don’t want their boss to think they are lazy
- They’re confused about workplace vacation policy
Why Vacations are Important
Which side one is on in the long-running HR debate between why vacations are important vs. keeping key workers on the job as much as possible is often dependent on the workplace culture itself. Some reasons why you should be taking a vacation include:
1. Good for Your Health
Taking regular vacations can actually help you live longer. During a 40 year study focusing on men with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, TE Strandberg discovered that participants who took three weeks of yearly vacation or less had a 37% higher risk of death than those that took more than three weeks a year.
Strandberg credited the lower risk of death with lower stress levels due to taking time off: “In our study, men with shorter vacations worked more and slept less than those who took longer vacations. This stressful lifestyle may have overruled any benefit of the [positive health actions taken].”
That means that taking vacations may be as beneficial to your health as physical activity, a healthy diet, and quitting smoking — all of which were part of the healthy actions taken in the study.
2. Good For Your Personal Life
Whether traveling with friends, family, or a significant other, vacations are a great way to strengthen personal relationships.
Vacationing with kids brings families together and builds memories. Many people can think back on their own childhood and remember trips taken with their parents and/or siblings that had an impact on their lives. Even if things don’t always go as planned, vacations create bonding moments between family members.
Whether or not you have children, vacationing with a romantic partner can be especially strengthening. Getting away with a long-term partner can give the two of you time away from daily routines and focus on spending time together. New relationships benefit from more time getting to know one another and a chance to become more comfortable together.
3. Good For Your Professional Life
Contrary to popular belief, taking vacations can help you get ahead at work. While some people think that vacations make you look like a slacker (see “reasons why people don’t take a vacation” above), it is shown to help you be better at your job.
People who use all of their vacation benefits have a 6.5% higher chance of getting a promotion or a raise than those who don’t. This may happen because vacations allow relaxation, and relaxation helps the brain think more clearly and creatively. When the brain can think positively, productivity, sales, and revenue all increase significantly.
As Shawn Achor said in his Harvard Business Review article, “the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.”
4. You May Be Wasting Benefits
According to the U.S. Travel Association, 786 million U.S. vacation days went unused in 2018. If your job includes paid time off, not taking a vacation is like giving yourself a pay cut. In fact, of those unused days, 236 million were forfeited completely and resulted in $65.5 billion in lost benefits.
Most employers won’t pay out unused vacation time and when every dollar counts, there is no excuse for ignoring paid time off available to you.
5. Your Boss Wants You To
Believe it or not, most managers want their employees to take vacations. As discussed in reason #3, businesses realize that stressed-out workers do not make good employees.
Additionally, management likes vacations for compliance audit purposes. If a worker is stealing or doing something otherwise illegal at work, it is easier to catch if another person takes over their tasks for a period of time. A person’s short-term absence can also uncover staffing issues, such as a position that may have too much responsibility or where hiring more workers may be necessary.
Vacation Tips to Guarantee an Enjoyable Time
Now that you’re convinced about the importance of taking a vacation, it’s time to start planning your next one! Here are some vacation tips that can help guarantee you’ll have an enjoyable time.
Try not to think about work. You may feel that you need to check in with your co-workers or linger on a problem you can’t seem to solve, but part of being on vacation is getting into a non-work state of mind. A great way to get ahead of this feeling is to prepare your co-workers before you leave to ensure that everything is under control without you around.
Plan ahead. There’s nothing more stressful than having to make last-minute decisions and stress is the opposite of what you should feel on vacation. Planning ahead of time where you are staying, what to eat, and how to get around will calm your nerves.
Travel away from your city. The best way to get into a new headspace is to get into a new physical space. Going to a new city or another part of the state can change your emotional state just by refocusing your attention.
Give yourself permission to relax and play. After so much time spent being productive, some people feel useless when they stop. It’s okay to not be productive! Relaxation is just as important as working and will refresh your mind, which is productive in its own way.
Let out energy. Maybe you have pent-up stress about your boss or a situation at work. Physical activity is a great way to let out negative energy. Luckily, vacations present all kinds of opportunities to be physically active. Hiking, swimming, or just walking around a new area can help you release stress.
Live in the moment. Try not to think about all the things waiting for you when you return to your job. Don’t think about issues you have to deal with when you get home. Instead, focus on what you are doing at the time in order to clear your head and relax. If you catch yourself thinking about work or problems, try to redirect your thoughts to what’s around you at the time. Even if you’re in backed up traffic trying to get somewhere, you’re still on vacation! Doesn’t that feel better?
Practice gratitude. How great is it to be able to truly enjoy yourself? Practicing gratitude is proven to make you happier, and happiness is what vacations are all about. This is one vacation tip worth bringing back with you and practicing as often as possible in your everyday life.
The experts at Project: Time Off are convinced that taking a vacation is so important that they have organized a “National Plan for Vacation Day” to take place on January 25, 2022. Its intention is to win back unused vacation days for workers while encouraging travel around the United States.
But you don’t have to wait until January to start planning your vacation — In addition to the tips above, it’s always best to ask your manager for time off as soon as possible. Start preparing now and before you know it, your health, relationships, and job will benefit from some time off of work.