It’s More Than Okay to Take Time Off – It’s Vital

Ah, vacation time. Sometimes it’s difficult to extricate yourself from workplace responsibilities and unplug. And with the rise of remote work fueled by the pandemic, the lines between work and personal time are becoming blurred. Instead of “working from home” many feel like they are “living at work.” Taking much-needed time off is more important than ever. But are we hurting our health by not taking the vacation we need?

COVID has certainly taken its toll on vacation plans. ​In a survey by IPX 1031 asking how Americans have adjusted their vacation plans during COVID-19, 40% reported outright cancelling a vacation and 23% reported postponing their vacation. According to a consumer survey by Allianz Partners USA, published as their annual Vacation Confidence Index, more than half (56%) of respondents haven’t vacationed in over a year, and for more than a quarter of Americans, it’s been more than two years since their last week-long leisure trip.

What’s more, even before COVID, the U.S. Travel Association reported that each year more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table. Forgoing vacation time puts workers at risk for burnout – something the World Health Organization (WHO) calls an “occupational phenomenon” defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed and includes feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

We’ve talked before about how COVID is ratcheting up stress levels for employees. Mental health provider Ginger released survey data showing that nearly 7 in 10 employees indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career. These extreme levels of stress — paired with the decidedly American trend to either not take vacation or “vacation shame” others (sadly, it is a thing) — are a recipe for burnout.

Here’s why scheduling and taking that vacation is vital to your well-being:

Reduce stress and anxiety – A Work and Well Being Study commissioned by the American Psychological Association, reported the following benefits when returning to work after a vacation: more positive mood (68 percent), more energy (66 percent), more motivated (57 percent), less stressed (57 percent), more productive (58 percent) and improved quality of work (55 percent). All good things!

Protect heart health – In multiple studies, including the Framingham Heart Study and the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, researchers found significantly reduced risk for heart attacks amongst frequent vacationers. Studies that show a correlation between frequent vacations and better physical health make planning that next vacation a no-brainer.

Increase Productivity – It may seem counterintuitive, but taking time off to recharge can positively impact productivity upon the return to work, as shown by a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group. This same point was reinforced by an American Psychological Association study in which respondents reported regular tasks took less effort after vacation. Recharging is productive.

If you’re taking conference calls and answering emails on your vacation, that’s not really taking time off.You need to completely unplug. Even shorter vacations can help you to recharge. Try it. Make a note on your calendar for National #PlanForVacation Day which is January 25, 2022. Then do yourself a favor and schedule that vital vacation.

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