How was your summer vacation — great or non-existent? If you said non-existent, there’s a good chance you’re like most Americans and only use about half of your vacation days each year.1 And, while it may be a good thing for your bank account, it could be hurting your health and productivity.
Before you let another summer slip by without a break, here are some things to consider.
Vacations improve health
Science has shown that the health effects of taking a vacation are more than anecdotal (although that relaxed, vacation vibe speaks for itself). Physically and emotionally, vacations have a positive effect. By removing us from the activities and environments that we associate with stress and anxiety, they have been shown to:2, 3
- Improve sleep
- Decrease blood pressure
- Lower the risk of heart disease
- Increase creativity and productivity
- Improve well-being, mood, and happiness
Even “Hamilton” creator, Lin Manuel Miranda said, “It was no accident that the best idea I’ve ever had in my life — perhaps the best one I’ll ever have in my life — came to me on vacation.”
Unfortunately, even with the promise of these health benefits, Americans are still reluctant to take vacations. The reasons are what you might expect: worries about leaving work and the cost of taking a vacation.4
What you can do
Start planning now. The U.S. Travel Association suggests trying to plan your vacations for the entire year. If that’s too daunting, try for 2-3 months out. You will give yourself (and your manager) ample time to plan.
Plan four-day weekends. Research shows that longer vacations aren’t necessarily better than shorter ones, and your health and well-being rapidly increase just two days into a vacation.5 So consider taking shorter vacations throughout the year instead of cashing in all your vacation days at once for one long trip.
2 Fritz, C., & Sonnentag, S. (2006). Recovery, well-being, and performance-related outcomes: the role of workload and vacation experiences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(4), 936.
3 Hilbrecht, M., & Smale, B. (2016). The contribution of paid vacation time to wellbeing among employed Canadians. Leisure/Loisir, 40(1), 31-54.
4 The State of American Vacation: How Vacation Became a Casualty of Our Work Culture
5 Vacation (after-) effects on employee health and well-being, and the role of vacation activities, experiences and sleep