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Do You Need to Make Time for "Time Off"?

Every year, tens of thousands of Americans let unused vacation days expire, representing an estimated $52.4 billion per year. A 24/7 work culture and a strong desire to get ahead in their careers causes many people to forego vacation time. Although a strong work ethic is a good thing, many people focus relentlessly on their jobs without taking any time off. Research evidence suggests that taking a vacation is not only good for your mental health but may also boost your work productivity. Consider your next vacation an investment in your future career success.

Benefits of Taking a Vacation

Taking a vacation has the obvious benefits of lounging in the sun or exploring a new city. However, you may not realize that vacationing also improves your physical and mental health, including:

  • Lower stress levels. Destressing is one of the best reasons to take a vacation. Between the everyday obligations of a busy work and home life, stress can gradually build to unhealthy levels. Taking a vacation allows you to prioritize yourself and your family, lowering stress.
  • Decreased cardiovascular risk. Some research actually suggests that taking a vacation decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Lower risk of depression. Taking vacations not only lowers your immediate stress levels, but it can also improve your overall mood. People who take frequent vacations have a lower risk of major depressive disorder, demonstrating the importance of getaways for strong mental health.
  • Higher productivity. Getting away from the office can actually increase your productivity upon your return. Being in a more relaxed mindset allows you to work more efficiently, leading to less wasted time and energy. Plus, you may find yourself solving a big problem or coming up with a new idea while on vacation, as taking a break from your daily routine can foster creativity.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Time Off

Unfortunately, even the people who do escape the office to go on a vacation often return feeling more stressed than ever. This isn’t surprising, given that many employees report that they do not actually stop working while they are on vacation. According to the Employment Confidence Survey conducted by Glassdoor, approximately 60 percent of respondents said they did some work while on vacation, while 20 percent noted that they were contacted by a supervisor about work during that time. This is hardly conducive to strong mental health.

Plan your next vacation carefully to maximize your time off. Think about what relaxes you the most, whether that is good food, a glass of wine, a day at the beach or trying an adventurous new activity. Plan your vacation around those activities. Then, resist the temptation to engage in work during your time off. Turn off your phone, do not check work emails and notify your office that you will be unreachable until your return. Take the time to prioritize your own relaxation and happiness, allowing you to return to work in a more balanced and healthy frame of mind.