The excuse you might need to finally take days off

“Take two vacation days…and call me in the morning.”

Sounds kind of strange, but a “vacation” might be a real “prescription” for better health and work life.

Work is the number one cause of stress for American workers, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. So, using up your vacation days would be one way to help relieve some of that stress, right? But it’s apparently not as easy as it sounds.

The author, on vacation, visiting the famous The French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, CA.

There can be other big bonuses to taking an actual vacation. But more on that later.

Don’t believe me?

Ok, skeptics. Just look at these stats:

  • Over 54 percent of American workers had unused vacation time in 2015, amounting to a staggering 662 million unused vacation days, according to a study by Project: Time Off, an initiative by the U.S. Travel Association.
  • Another survey conducted by Skift noted that nearly 42 percent of Americans do not take ANY vacation days.

Do you work too much?

Getting away from work can help recharge your batteries, clear your mind and catch your breath. Is the idea of a stress-free getaway not enough to detach you from work? If that’s the case, here are two more reasons to consider:

1. Want a raise? Take vacation?

People who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6 percent likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period, according to another study by Project: Time Off. But people who took at least 11 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus.

2. You might be overworking for free

I love this rundown from an article in the Harvard Business Review:

“If you’re not taking all your time off, you’re not working more — you’re overworking for free.” added the author of the article.  “Many people have become work martyrs, thinking if they give and give, they will be more successful. But it doesn’t play out that way.”

The author as he navigates a stream while on vacation at Mt. Marcy – the highest point in New York state.

Vacation ideas

You’re ready to unplug- Great! But please note that you don’t have to book an elaborate getaway to an exotic island. Here are some ideas:

  • Get organized! Last year, I literally took two days off to simply get things done. I bought new tires, had my car inspected, painted two rooms and trimmed overgrown shrubs. I even had time to binge watch episodes of Game of Thrones. It may not sound like “vacation,” but it felt great to get all of that done. It was a big stress relief!
  • Later in the year, I joined a friend’s trip hiking Mt. Marcy (the highest peak in New York state) as a “bucket list” birthday trip. I was actually “off the grid” for a couple of days. Think about it…no cell service. We felt uncomfortable at first. But it didn’t take long to rediscover the great outdoors while having actual conversations and laughs without anyone staring at a mobile device. I’m not saying everyone has to climb a mountain on their day off, just getting away and reconnecting with friends is a good place to start.

The author at Mt. Marcy in Essex County.

One more thing…Unplug

You don’t have to scale a mountain to unplug. No matter what you’re doing, all it takes is one email or voicemail to disrupt your time off. I once checked email while on a much-anticipated trip and learned that a co-worker had unexpectedly left the company. Needless to say, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and was distracted the rest of the trip.

No one (well, almost no one) is so important that they can’t disconnect for a short amount of time, especially if you plan on it.

Everyone needs to define “unplugging” based on their own specific situation. Here are four general tips that may help:

    1. Leave a strong out of office message before leaving. Give co-workers who have “urgent” needs a place to go, if they can’t wait for you to get back. Don’t leave an email or phone number where you can be reached, otherwise they WILL reach you.
    2. Turn off your work email, if you’re able to do so.
    3. Stay busy. This could mean anything from reading by the pool to hiking, visiting a museum, working on a project around the house, binge-watching your favorite show, etc. The less time you have to think about work, the less likely you will be to plug back in again.
    4. Go somewhere you are actually OFF the grid. If you don’t have service, then you simply can’t be reached. Or, just tell people that you’ll be off the grid (stay off social media if you do this).

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning those days off.

Erika Gruszewski

5 thoughts on “The excuse you might need to finally take days off

  1. Jan Caster says:

    Joe, I am on permanent vacation as tomorrow is my first day of retirement. I enjoyed working with you. Looking forward to reading more of your articles!

  2. Corey says:

    great article, unfortunately getting vacation time, or time off in general, in my department has become quite challenging and requests often get denied.

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