On the Job

5 reasons to take that vacation — now

For many, summer is vacation time because kids aren’t in school. But vacation isn’t a “summer only” activity. We should be regularly thinking about taking time off because of the many personal and professional benefits it can provide.

However, according to the travel marketing firm Skift, forty-two percent (42%) of Americans don’t take their vacation. Maybe it’s because they can’t afford a big, fancy trip. Or because they don’t want to come back to work with a couple hundred emails. Possibly because they’re afraid to ask the boss for time off. Vacations help us perform better at work and we should take them. Here are five reasons why:

Reason 1. Vacations are good for our mental health. According to research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Center, leisure activities including vacation contribute to positive emotions, greater life satisfaction, and less stress. These outcomes can help us manage our workload more effectively and deal with those daily nuisances.

Reason 2. People who take their vacation days have a better chance of getting a pay increase. In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Data Driven Case for Vacation”, researchers found that individuals who took 11 or more vacation days are 30 percent more likely to receive a pay increase. The logic being that taking vacation results in lower stress and a better outlook, which is a contributor in productivity.

Vacations Don’t Have to Be Long to Be Beneficial

Some people might be thinking, this sounds great. And I’d love to take my vacation time. But I would be worried the whole time about the pile of work accumulating on my desk. Fair enough. Even if you can’t get away for a week (or two), taking a long weekend or a single day can have a positive effect.

One employee perk that’s growing in popularity right now is “Summer Fridays”. Organizations are letting employees “start the weekend early” by leaving early on Fridays. This might not be feasible in every company, but if your organization is offering it, don’t use the time catching up on work projects (as tempting as that may be). Use these few hours of time to treat yourself (i.e. exercise, mindfulness, movie, etc.). It doesn’t have to be big – maybe it’s coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in ages. Just do something for you.

Reason 3. Taking some time for yourself allows you to sleep better. This ties into reasons 1 and 2 above. Research from the Journal of Happiness Studies indicates that health and wellness improves when individuals can sleep well during their vacation. The longer the vacation, the better we sleep, and greater long-term positive impact.

Reason 4. Vacations can provide a digital detox. Even if you don’t have a high-tech job, we live in a high-tech world. The average person spends over an hour each day on social media. Many people do not realize the impact that “always being on” can have in their personal and professional lives. Even a short-term break from technology devices can bring huge benefits.

How to Ask Your Boss for a Vacation

Asking for a vacation used to be somewhat easy. Employees had a vacation balance that needed to be “used or lost”, so we could say to the boss, “I gotta take it or I lose it.” And as much as the boss didn’t like it, they would make it happen because they didn’t want to request a vacation carryover.

Now, unlimited vacation programs are growing in popularity. Part of the reason is to help the organization attract and retain the best talent. The other part is to help employees have greater work/life balance. It can make asking for time off more difficult. And it’s having an impact on organizations. New data shows that employees in organizations with unlimited vacation policies actually take less vacation.

REASON 5. High performers take more time off. Research from HR software company Namely found that employees classified as high performers in the organization took more time off than individuals with lower performance scores. Companies with unlimited vacation time are encouraging employees to take time off because they know the employee will be a better performer.

Find Time to Recharge

There will always be work to do. We can’t let that stop us from taking a vacation. Look for slow times in the business to request vacation. Find a co-worker you can cover for when they take time off, so they will cover for you. That can help manage the work you’ll have when you return.

Employees need to make disconnecting from the office a priority. Find the right time to take vacation so you can step away and relax. Taking time to recharge is good for you and your career.

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