Do Not Do What I Did
We often think about vacations and vacation days the same way we think of luxury goods or fancy restaurants—nice to have, but definitely not something we need. And many people look at European standards of legally-mandated vacation time, not as enviable, but frivolous. Why are Europeans spending their time on beaches on the south coast while we're often glued to emails and meetings during our vacations? Turns out they might know something we don't.
According to the State of American Vacation 2018, there are numerous factors that lead to the failure to utilize the vacation time that has been earned. Many people aspire to avoid being overwhelmed by the amount of work that will be waiting for them upon their return. Others feel that forgoing vacation to stay in the office will help them get ahead of the competition in their career, a phenomenon now known as the "work martyr". This type of employee often feels that he or she is the only one that can do their job, and that things will fall apart in their absence. They like to show their boss that they are dedicated to their work, and feel that if they are not there, the boss will notice that instead. Many of us feel that we cannot turn off calls and emails even when we are on vacation, lest we miss something important that needs our immediate attention. To a certain degree, I bet most of have a bit of work martyr in us.
But stop to ask yourself, "what are you losing by not taking, or focusing on, that vacation?" While being a hard worker and team player is admirable, the stress caused by of overworking can become destructive and harmful to both your health and your relationships. This stress can lead to burn out and actually makes you a less productive and valuable employee. And we don't leave this at work. It can extend into your personal life as well, interfering with relationships with our partners and time with our kids (you may have heard the phrase, "you only have 18 summers with your kids" - it's true!). Add in the fact that the mind and body are connected to each other, and you will start to physically feel the effects over time as well.
So it turns out that mandatory vacation time, despite American perceptions, is far from radical: it has actually been proven to be beneficial not only to the individual, but to employers and companies as well. Happier, recharged people make for better employees and colleagues.
Sounds pretty solid, right? Although many Americans are swamped at work, we often come up with every excuse in the book to stay on and chip away at our workload. However, the evidence suggests that instead of burning the midnight oil, we would probably be better off on a tour of an olive grove in Athens. All work and no play does indeed make Jack a dull boy, but if Jack were listening to the research and evidence of planned vacation time, he would be on a plane to Barcelona before the next conference call.