Taking a Vacation is Essential for Both Your Productivity and Your Well-Being

“Almost everything will work if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.” – Anne Lamott

Tis the season for vacations…. or is it?

It’s common for professionals to utilize the summer for a much-needed break, but how many are really taking time off?

And for those taking time off, how many are truly disconnecting?

Using your paid leave isn’t just important for your productivity at work, it’s also vital for your personal health. A 2019 study found that vacations lower the risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease.

“Not taking vacation days can have detrimental effects on mental health as it can lead to burnout, increased stress levels, and decreased productivity,” Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence.

So, let’s dive into the challenges when it comes to vacation time.

Challenge #1 – Actually Taking a Vacation:
According to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted in February, 46% of workers don’t take all the paid time off their employer offers.

Furthermore, 64% of respondents in this survey said it was extremely important to them personally to have a job that offers paid time off for vacations.

So why aren’t employees taking vacation?

In the Pew Research Center survey they identified six reasons:

  1. Don’t feel they need to take more time off.
  2. Worry they might fall behind in work.
  3. Feel badly about co-workers taking additional work.
  4. Think taking more time off might hurt chances for advancement.
  5. Think they might risk losing their job.
  6. Manager/Supervisor discourages taking time off.

Now that we know why employees may not take vacation time, let’s outline the benefits to taking a vacation from this HBR article:

  • Mind – Taking a vacation provides greater opportunity for rest and better sleep (both quantity and quality), which can help unclutter your mind to create more mental space. Improved rest and sleep during vacation also helps you return to work able to think more clearly as well as be more focused and productive, which has shown benefits to both the individual and the employer.
  • Body – Relaxing on vacation can reduce the levels of these stress hormones and allow your immune system to recover, making you less prone to get sick. Depending on how you spend your time while on vacation, there are additional potential physical benefits. Being in nature has the effect of reducing your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Soul – When you take time away from work to go on vacation, assuming you can mostly unplug, this break can allow you to tune out much of this external noise and tune back into your true self. You can start to separate the striver part of you, let go of your ego, and reacquaint yourself with the essence of who you really are.

Challenge #2 – Truly Disconnecting:
Data from the American Time Use survey revealed that 30% of full-time employees report working weekends and holidays. Even when people officially have time off, that doesn’t mean they stop working.

It’s great taking a vacation, but it’s also important to disconnect from work while you’re away.

So, how do you do that?

In this CNBC article they share three strategies to unplug while on vacation.

  1. Have an emergency contact – Provide your manager or direct report with a phone number to contact you for emergencies. This allows them to contact you if there in fact is an emergency, but also allows you to resist checking email, slack, etc. knowing you’ll be contacted if necessary.
  2. Designate a decision-maker – Assign someone you trust to take the lead on making decisions in your absence, so projects don’t get held up while you’re away.
  3. Accept that things will happen – It’s important to truly turn off your professional world and understand things will continue to move forward and challenges will get solved in your absence.

So please take a vacation and do everything you can to disconnect. You deserve this break and will be better for it when you return.

Here are articles we found helpful on the topic:
How Taking a Vacation Improves Your Well-Being
Three tips for time off that’s restful, not stressful
The Importance of Vacation in the Workplace