Take the Vacation and Turn Off Your Laptop
With summer getting closer, you may dream of long days at the beach, time spent with family and friends uninterrupted by emails, or adventurous trips to new locales. But for far too many of us, these images are dreams. American employees take significantly few vacation days, with workers leaving an average of four full vacation days unused every year. Accounting for all full-time employees in the United States, this totals 500 million unused annual vacation days! And with the rise of technology and 24-hour connectivity, even when we do take a vacation day, we often still find ourselves checking emails and responding to messages on Teams or Slack rather than signing off entirely.
The reasons for this lack of time off vary, but the result is the same: increased stress and burnout, lower productivity, and reduced mental and physical health.
Taking time away from work to rest and recharge is critical to protecting our well-being. Studies have shown that working long hours without adequate time off can increase our risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and other serious health problems. People who take more vacations per year are less likely to die from these and other medical issues.
Mental and Emotional Health
Regular vacations also help our mental health. By removing us from our everyday environments and responsibilities, taking time off reduces our stress levels and can help ease anxiety and depression. For outdoor adventures, spending time in nature has been proven to lower our cortisol levels and help us decompress. And, of course, vacation time often equals time spent with family and friends, which enormously improves our relationships, sense of community and connection, and overall satisfaction with our lives.
Burnout, Retention, and Productivity
And the perks of vacation days don’t stop with the individual. When employees take vacations, companies benefit as well. By encouraging employees to use their vacation days, employers can reduce burnout and improve retention rates, lowering the costs associated with onboarding and hiring. People who take all their vacation days – and use that time to disconnect from work truly – are also more focused, motivated, creative, and productive when they return to the job. Significant positive implications exist for individuals’ professional growth, corporate growth, and performance when they take time off.
What the workplace can do to support
Employers can make vacation part of the company culture! They can communicate the importance of taking time off to support well-being. To enable staff members to disconnect on their time off fully, they can ensure adequate staffing and coverage. Of course, the best way to encourage a behavior is to model it. So, managers and leaders must also use their vacation days.
The takeaway message is simple: Your vacation days are part of your overall compensation package. Not taking them is equivalent to leaving money on the table. It can also have significant and lasting consequences for your well-being. So, book that beach day, put up that out-of-office message, and take your well-earned time off!