I don’t know why anyone would leave their vacation time on the table. If I have a chance to escape work for a few days or a week, I’m taking it. But apparently some workers don’t share my view.
According to a 2016 Bankrate report, nearly half of US workers don’t use all of their vacation days. The reasons vary. Some people consider their work enjoyable, but others skipped out on vacations for fear of upsetting their employers.
Whatever the reasons for not scheduling time off, feeling guilty shouldn’t be one of them. We all need and deserve a mental break. So if you can’t remember the last time you took a breather, here are four reasons to plan one soon.
1. Improves your physical health
Getting away from the office for a few days can benefit your physical health. Even if you love your work, the daily demands of your position can leave you stressed and tired.
Chronic stress isn’t good because it causes higher cortisol levels (a stress hormone) which can lower your immune system. Additionally, ongoing fatigue can compromise your immune system making it harder to fight infections. All work and no play also increases the risk of stress-related burnout which may trigger other problems, such as insomnia, high blood pressure, tension headaches, migraines and computer eyestrain.
2. Improves productivity
Taking a vacation gives you time to unwind and recharge physically, mentally and emotionally. You’ll return to work with a clear head and increased energy. Feeling refreshed from the inside out makes you a better worker. Increased alertness means you’re able to concentrate and complete your work with minimum errors. With fatigue behind you, you can work at a steady pace, complete everything on your to-do list and meet deadlines.
3. You might become a happier person
I’m by no means suggesting that people who work around the clock are unhappy. But if an honest self-evaluation exposes more bad days than good days, and you can’t recall your last break, ditching work for a few days may improve your outlook and your attitude.
We spend a great deal of our week on the job. If you’re burnt out and overwhelmed at work, the irritability and misery you feel in the workplace could spill over into your personal life and affect your relationship with relatives and friends.
4. Your employer will survive
If you’ve earned time off, don’t feel guilty about taking a vacation. Contrary to what you and others might believe, the office won’t fall completely apart if you’re away for a few days. Your absence might be a slight inconvenience since others may have to jump in and help with your daily assignments, but this is temporary. Chances are you’ve done your fair share of pitching in, so your coworkers should extend you the same courtesy.
Of course, if you still fear the repercussions of taking time off, see if you can get ahead on work before your vacation. Maybe spend a few extra hours in the office before leaving to make sure your workload stays on track. Or don’t take all your vacation days at once. If you have two weeks a year, split it up into three or four mini vacations.
Your employer might not encourage using all your vacation days, and the company might worry about fewer hands on deck during your absence. But everyone needs a break. You’ve earned this time off, and you deserve it. Working non-stop or dealing with fatigue after work cuts into the time you spend with your spouse, children and yourself. Scheduling a vacation might be just what the doctor ordered. It doesn’t suggest a weak work ethic—it says that you refuse to allow work to control your life.