Our friends overseas know something that all of us have yet to embrace: vacation works. A Boston College study found that employees who take a higher number of vacation days to just relax and enjoy themselves feel rejuvenated and less overwhelmed when they return to work.
Yet, according to Expedia.com, an astounding 51.2 million Americans will leave some of their vacation – an average of three days – on the table.
Barriers to time off: Stress, Job Security and Money
More than one third of American workers say they struggle with work stress while they're away, so many say why bother taking more time off. Instead of relaxing, they envision a slew of messages and massive to-do lists when they get back to the office. Or they use their vacation days to take care of important personal and family obligations—from doctor's appointments to caring for children or older relatives—which isn't relaxing at all.
Others worry about job security. “What if I go away and they don't miss me? I don't want to take that risk, so I'll just stay put.” Money is also a big factor. Typical vacations conjure the image of steep travel expenses that many people can ill-afford.
Rested employees are more productive
Savvy employers recognize that running people ragged and draining them isn’t a good thing. Studies have found that the total health and productivity cost of worker stress to American business could be as high as $150 billion a year. Studies also show that taking time off even reduces the risk of heart attack.
Recognize that just like a good night's sleep refreshes you for the next day, a relaxing vacation, which means five or more days without work, rejuvenates you for doing your best on the job. Vacation is truly a necessity, not a luxury.
Tips for Stress-free Time off
Pick an affordable destination. You need not jet off to a posh destination to enjoy time off. Do you live near parks and beaches that you’d like to explore? Can you take day trips by bike or train in your hometown? What about visiting a friend or relative with a spare bedroom to host you?
Designate a back-up. Select a colleague who will be able to answer any questions about your projects while you're away. Brief that person on your projects, where your files are kept and so on. Make sure you offer to do the same while your back-up goes on vacation. This buddy system will keep your in-box under control while you're away.
Change voicemail and email greetings. Change greetings on your phone and email accounts to indicate you will be out of touch. It's bad business not to return calls, but if you let clients know you're away and who to contact in your absence, they won't feel ignored. And. most selfishly, it’ll save you from getting scores of messages filled with requests that could have been taken care of while you're away.
Give contact information to one person. Instead of telling everyone how to reach you, let one person know where you’ll be. He or she can funnel requests to determine if you really need to be bothered while away.
Set limits on work. There are some people who find being totally out of touch very stressful, yet constantly checking in defeats the purpose of a break. Make a commitment to yourself, your boss and your family to check in a limited amount: Once a day, for example. Or if you have to bring work with you, limit the amount of time you spend on it - an hour a day, tops. And stick to it.