The benefits of taking vacation days
Many of us are counting down the days until a much-needed vacation as summer approaches. Unfortunately, a lot of people cancel or postpone their vacation time because of real or perceived work obligations.
A vacation provides well-deserved time off from work and an opportunity to rest and recharge. Too much time spent at work and managing multiple tasks leads to fatigue and stress, which directly affect our physical resistance and mental capacities. A few days of not thinking about work helps recharge and reduce stress.
Getting away doesn’t mean leaving the country or even the house. The key is to find a setting that facilitates a mental break by leaving work and other worries behind. Some people manage to do it from home (a so-called staycation), while others head to the cottage or out of town. Either away, a change of surroundings helps disconnect more completely from daily concerns.
Taking time to relax and play has powerful benefits for both children and adults. Play is any activity that creates anticipation, surprise and pleasure. Adults who find play activities can take a temporary break from time constraints, rules and responsibilities and enjoy more balance in their busy lives. Day trips, nature walks, a pickup soccer game and other carefree activities can become a fun adventure and a great break for the entire family.
Here are a few of the many ways in which taking a vacation can benefit our health:
- It relieves stress: Research shows a direct link between stress and health conditions such as headaches, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other types of infections acquired as a result of a weaker immune system. Taking vacations also reduces the incidence of burnout.
- It refreshes our perspective: Relief from stress often gives us a new perspective. It allows us to rebuild our energy and often to find simple (and sometimes obvious) solutions to problems that had previously seemed overwhelming.
- It boosts mental capacity: A well-rested mind that’s free of worry is often more effective and creative.
- It supports better physical health: A vacation provides the opportunity to catch up on sleep and exercise, which are two simple remedies for our many aches and pains.
- It can strengthen family ties: Today’s families are very busy. A vacation is a great opportunity to spend time together in a less scheduled setting and build lasting memories together.
- It reminds you to enjoy life: Taking time off can be a great opportunity to meet new people, laugh and do the things that you enjoy the most.
Since vacations offer a break in the stress cycle, people usually return from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again. Vacations help us gain perspective on our problems, relax with our families and friends and take a break from our usual routines.
Employers have a role to plan in encouraging employees to take advantage of paid vacation time. Here are a few ideas:
- Limit vacation accumulation and rollovers: While it isn’t always practical for all employees to use their allotted annual vacation time by Dec. 31, it’s important to encourage them to use their vacation during the allotted time. Limit the number of days that will roll over into the next year.
- Encourage mini-vacations: Sometimes, employees’ reluctance to take vacation comes down to concerns about losing money or getting behind on their workload. Instead of one big holiday, employers can encourage those employees to take mini-vacations, such as half-days here and there during the week or three- or four-day weekends during the year.
- Schedule work flow: Employers can help employees feel good about taking their actual vacation entitlement by scheduling work flow carefully. The goal with scheduling is to help take the burden off of the people who are still at work while those away on holiday are able to recharge.
- Set a good example: Leading by example, organizations can encourage managers and executives to use their full holiday benefits. They need to recharge, too.
Vacation is a critical part of work-life balance. Employers should make sure everyone takes vacation, however they choose to spend it. Turn off the phone and have a good time.