Whether you work full time or not, the pressure to get things done pervades all of our lives. With cell phone in hand we run off: to work, the gym, the grocery store, to check in on mom and dad. We are reachable 24/7 and even the simple act of keeping our phone close at hand creates stress for our brains.
A country of workaholics, Americans are notorious for letting vacation days expire and when we do vacation, it is for a day here or there, typically built around a holiday weekend. We hoard our days only to lose them. We are “too busy” (and in some cases afraid) to get away.
54% of Americans failed to use all of their vacation time in 2016.
According to the Project: Time Off study conducted by the US Travel Association, 206 million of these vacation days were lost – meaning they were not rolled over, paid out or converted to another benefit.
The top reasons people give for not taking vacation time seem to revolve around fear – fear of returning to more work, not getting promoted or being seen as replaceable, uncommitted or even worse, fear that indeed you are irreplaceable.
However, data does not support these fears. According to the Project: Time Off study, employees who take 10 or less days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more. Maybe it is good to let your employer miss you. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – even at work.
Smart bosses know it’s better if their employees take their vacation time and wish you would take yours. Your employer gives you paid time off with the hope of sending off a tightly wound employee and returning one that is smiling, content and more importantly, productive. Here are some of the subtle changes your boss hopes you achieve through taking time off from work:
Hone Your Skill
Relaxing is a skill. When work spirals into a frenzy or an aggressive deadline is in your face, collapsing into a puddle in the corner because the stress is so great helps no one. It is in these moments you most need the skill necessary to calm your central nervous system and move forward in a level-headed manner.
When is a perfect time to hone this skill? That’s right. Vacation time. Whether your vacation involves sitting on a beach or hiking Machu Pichu, link moments of being relaxed with taking a deep breath. Next time work gets a little crazy, drop into that breath. Use it to stay calm and carry on.
Open Your Mind
New experiences and meeting new people is good for our brains and opens our minds to new possibilities. Being open to alternate realities makes space in our minds for creativity. Apply this new way of looking and living to both your home life and your work. There is more out there than your tiny little piece of the world. Check it out, see what it can teach you and return to your job with new eyes and fresh ideas.
Find Your Balance
If you have gotten off track, time off can bring balance back to your life. Spending too much energy on work? Are you constantly checking email, even at home on your “down time”? Use vacation time to step away from work completely and check in on other aspects of your life. Reflect on the whole picture that is your being and consider where your current work-life balance stands. Adjust as necessary.
Give Your Brain A Break
Whether you realize it or not, constantly checking your phone/email/social media accounts wears on your brain. Fear of missing out is a real thing and it creates stress.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress In America study, 65 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat agree that a break from technology is important for their mental health, yet only 28% of these people actually report taking a “digital detox”. Vacation can be the ultimate unplug. Leave the phone at home or find a destination with no cell service. The mind you save will be your own.
And Connect With Others
Go into almost any public space and you will see it: family and friends gathered together but not interacting because they are engaged with their phones instead of each other. In addition to the benefits of a digital detox, reap the reward of refreshed relationships by spending precious down time connecting with people that are important to you.
Be warned: you may find the break refreshes your relationship with your job as well. You can’t appreciate your work or your co-workers if you never leave.
The bottom line is this: no days should ever be left behind. Vacation days are yours to use or to lose. Take full advantage of the benefits they offer by actually using them. It’s good to take a little break from your job to relax, refresh and unplug. The relationships you foster in your down time will support you in a way that enriches your life and makes your job more fulfilling.
Don’t be a statistic. Make plans now before the year is over to take full advantage of the vacation time you have in 2017.
Drop the phone, leave the laptop behind and just go away already.