The Importance of Vacations

Everyone knows it’s good to take time off and relax. But many American workers act as if it’s news to them. They don’t take all the time off they have coming to them.

A 2007 survey by the Hudson employment firm found that more than half of American workers don’t take all of their earned vacation time. About 30 percent of those surveyed said they take less than half of the time they’ve earned for the year, and 20 percent said they take only a few days instead of the full week or two that they’re due.

Employees who avoid rest and relaxation may be hurting themselves. A number of studies show leisure time – including vacation time from work – is good for your emotional and physical health, and for your work performance.

The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial for the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease followed 12,000 men with high risk for coronary heart disease over nine years. The findings? The men who failed to take annual vacations were at 21 percent higher risk of death from all causes and were 32 percent more likely to die from heart attack.

The Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948, found that women who regularly skipped vacations (only indulging once every six years or less often) were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than women who averaged two vacations a year.

Research by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working.

Of course, not everyone has a week or two of vacation time stored up, or the money for a cruise or resort vacation. How can you make your time off count?

Plan wisely. Be thoughtful about what kind of vacation you and your family will most enjoy. If flying makes you anxious, plan a road trip instead. If your toddler screams when trapped in a car seat more than twenty minutes, choose a child-friendly base at a nearby destination.

Mind your budget. A vacation you can’t really afford will increase your stress, not decrease it. Check out state and national parks or rent a cabin by the lake. If money’s really tight, play tourist in your own backyard. Plan a scenic hike one day and visit a local art museum the next.

Disconnect. Working remotely is great, but it’s not a vacation. If you know you’ll be tempted to check your email five times a day, leave your phone and laptop at home. The American workforce lags behind those of other industrialized nations when it comes to taking their allotted time off. Do yourself a favor. Take the time off you have coming to you and enjoy yourself. Then come back to work rested and ready to go!

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