It’s started – “When do I get a Day off?”

The year has started amidst cries of “When do I get a day off?”  In many careers, the first week back in January can feel like the longest and most exhausting!  People are already contemplating their next vacation…which is a good thing!  Too many of us think that we can’t take time off, that the world won’t survive without us.  Yet using our vacation time is critical to our own existence as well as the quality of the work we do while in the office.

Why take vacations? Studies show that taking vacation time increases the level of productivity and decreases the number of sick days people take.  Workers report feeling more satisfied with their roles after returning to the office.  Organizations with more liberal vacation policies tend to develop employees with better work/life balance, which leads to improved work quality.

A study of 1500 Dutch adults done at Erasmus University in Rotterdam found that 974 took a vacation. Those individuals reported being happier than those who didn’t take vacations.  Their excitement level for the vacation spilled over into their work.  They returned to the job site showing increased levels of happiness, which became evident in their work.  The study also found that the trick was to take two or more short breaks throughout the year as opposed to one longer vacation.  Spread the joy throughout the year!

Vacations relieve stress!  We consistently talk about being stressed and the evidence is clear, stress causes distinct physiological responses including increased cortisol and epinephrine release.  Too much stress over a long period of time causes our bodies to respond in negative ways.  Elevated rates of high cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart disease are common.  A 2010 Framingham Heart Study showed that men who vacationed regularly were 32% less likely to die from a heart attack.  For women, that number was even higher at 50%.

Taking a vacation also helps maintain focus.  Studies have shown that chronic stress affects an individual’s ability to engage with goal-directed activities as well as memory.

Vacations help improve quality of sleep!  Recent studies have shown that those who travel and vacation regularly reported an almost 20% improvement in their sleep.  They also averaged almost an hour more of quality sleep each day; this also carried over upon return to home.

While some may view vacations as a luxury, they are truly a necessity for a well-balanced, healthy life – as important as eating well and getting exercise.

From an organizational standpoint, employees who are rested, excited, and less stressed are happier and more focused employees.  They take fewer sick days and are more engaged with helping the company meet their bottom line.

A 2012 survey by Harris Interactive Inc. found that by the end of 2012, Americans will leave an average of 9.2 days of vacation unused.  This is up from the 2011 average of 6.2 days.

Make 2017 the year that you do your best to lower that average!

Wise Words Newsletter – read the rest of the January newsletter here!