Across the board, Americans agree that taking vacations are important for general health and well-being and help them feel more connected to their family and friends. Conversely, skipping vacations can have a negative impact on many aspects of their personal and professional lives.
Expedia’s 2017 Vacation Deprivation® report, an annual study that looks at the vacation habits of more than 30,000 working adults across 30 countries, shows that Americans are struggling to use their vacation time. Around half of workers in the U.S. report feeling somewhat or very vacation deprived, and will fail to use approximately 462 million vacation days.
The primary reasons cited for not taking time off are budget, the desire to save up vacation days for a longer holiday, not being able to get away from work, and the fear of losing their jobs. However, vacations are beneficial not only to workers, but to their companies as well.
The benefits of vacation are widespread. Taking time away from work and routine, even if only for a long weekend, allows the body to replenish and repair itself. Employees return from vacation in better health and attitude. Health benefits include reduced stress, lowered blood pressure, improved mental health and stronger family relationships. After a break employees are more focused and productive, and taking vacations foster stronger workplace morale and greater employee retention.
Not using vacation days is similar to sleep deprivation, according to physicians and psychotherapists. Just as lack of sleep impedes your ability to think clearly and act decisively, lack of playtime keeps you from taking in information effectively and has a negative impact on your reflex time, general resilience and ability to ward off infection.
According to the Expedia report, staying digitally connected by checking work related emails and messages on vacation can contribute to rising stress levels. Vacation should not just involve time spent out of the office but time off work as well. Other studies have shown that people who spend a lot of time thinking negatively about work while on vacation actually had higher levels of exhaustion and disengagement from work when they returned. People who felt that their holiday was highly recuperative, meanwhile, experienced enhanced effects when they went back to work.
As managers it is important to create an environment where taking time off is recognized and actually encouraged as a way to promote a healthier and more productive workplace.