The Importance of Time Off

Get Out of Town! No, Seriously. Please Leave.

Did you know that the average U.S. worker uses only half of the paid vacation time they’ve earned? It’s a combination of our hard-driving culture and mobile work technology that has led to this feeling that we are never “off the clock.” The result is stress, fatigue and chronic bad moods, which drain both our physical and emotional resources.

In short, all work and no play makes you unhealthy and unproductive. Here are four science-based reasons you should book your next vacation today:

  1. Stress reduction. A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with stress and anxiety. Similarly, a Canadian study of nearly 900 lawyers found that the effects of taking vacations last beyond the duration of the vacation.
  2. Heart disease prevention. Many studies have highlighted the cardiovascular health benefits of taking a vacation. One found that men at risk for heart disease who skipped vacations were 30% more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least a week off each year. Studies find similar results with women: Women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease, have a heart attack, or die of a coronary-related cause than those who took at least two vacations a year.
  3. Improved productivity. Professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8%. What’s more, frequent vacationers were significantly less likely to leave the firm.
  4. Better sleep. When we can’t stop the chatter in our heads, it affects our sleep, and a lack of sleep leads to less focus, less alertness, impaired memory, an increased likelihood of accidents and a decreased quality of life. Researchers say that vacations can help interrupt the habits that disrupt sleep, like working late into the night or watching a backlit screen before bed.

There are even some progressive companies that actually pay employees to take time off. Employees past the one-year mark at web development company Basecamp can choose from 16 vacation packages, valued at $4,000-$5,000. Marketing and advertising company SteelHouse started giving employees $2,000 a year for vacations in 2011, when it was only a year old. At human resources software company BambooHR, after you’ve been an employee six months you get $2,000 a year to go anywhere in the world. At marketing analytics company Moz, employees get 21 days of paid vacation with $3,000 in expense reimbursements. Employees at the task management company Evernote can only receive their $1,000 bonus if they take at least five consecutive days off each year.  

It’s summer time, so there is no better time than the present to take time off. I myself, will soon embark on an unplugged road trip with my family, so I am practicing what I preach. As a business owner, I know it’s not easy to take time away from work, but it’s time we say “enough is enough” and learn to put our needs first. Taking time off is good for your mental and physical health, and you come back more productive and effective. It’s a win-win.

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