When I worked in Corporate America, one of my bosses was notorious for working 24 hours a day. I’d arrive at work with emails sent from her at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. On a vacation with her grandchildren at Disneyland, she called regarding materials that were coming in from the print shop. One Christmas morning she stopped by the office to “catch up.”
What did she achieve? That’s a good question. She was frazzled, pulled through the days by can after can of soda. Her paranoia regarding our department’s achievements was incredibly severe, as if our lives depended on it.
And therein is where the problem lies. Work is work and life is life, but work should not be life. Making time to travel is important in keeping a balance between work and play. Can you believe that a quarter of people say they haven’t taken a family vacation, if they’ve taken one at all? There are lots of reasons why people don’t travel—in fact, many people don’t even like to travel—but there is still an incredible need to take time away from the workplace.
Studies have shown that there are very positive effects when people take the time to vacation (this includes those who take long-distance trips and those who stick around their own backyards). Consider the following benefits of vacations:
- Increased creativity
- Increased productivity and efficiency on the job
- Less likely to burn out on the job
- Regular vacations keep stress levels lower and energy levels high
- Improved mood
- Better relationships with family and friends
- Less stress overall
Despite the numerous studies that have shown why taking breaks from work is so important, more than half of all Americans do not use their vacation time. It’s been said that the United States is a no-vacation nation, and the stats don’t lie. What’s even more troubling is that, when people do travel or are forced to take paid days off, they are still likely to work. They take their laptops to the beach, their Blackberries to Walt Disney World and their work-heavy mindsets to places that should be far removed from our everyday comfort zones.
I can appreciate that there is an innate fear of taking advantage of vacation time, especially with a rocky economy hovering in the background. I had the same concerns:
- Who will respond to my emails, phone calls, etc?
- My work will pile up and then I’ll fall behind.
- I am the only person who knows how to do my job.
- Will my boss decide that I’m not necessary?
You earned your vacation, so use it, and use it well. Work ahead if possible, and then make a commitment to truly leave the work behind. Unplug. Breathe. Enjoy. Relax.
Your body and your family will thank you for it.