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Missing Work Vacations May Be Life-Threatening

June 14, 2010

Do you work to live or live to work? If the latter, it may be costing your business team in diminished productivity. Worse, it may be dangerous to your health.

A 2009 Expedia poll, the Vacation Deprivation Survey, found that 34 percent of Americans did not use all their vacation days, even though Americans get fewer vacation days each year than workers in other countries.

Only 10 percent said they planned to take a full two-week vacation, according to Expedia, even though experts say this is the right medicine for work-weary business women and men.

“I mean a real [vacation], one where you didn’t do any errands or constructive tasks, turned off e-mail and gave yourself permission to do whatever you wanted to do for several days, hopefully a week or longer,” writes Dr. Susan Biali in her Psychology Today blog entry, Plan a Vacation ASAP: It Might Save Your Life!

Biali, a wellness expert and the author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You, motivates overworked people with a Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine study. The study of 12,000 men concluded that taking multiple vacations, up to five in a year, resulted in 32 percent lower chance of death from all causes.

“The verdict: skipping vacations could actually kill you,” Biali tells her readers.

Reasons for Skipping Vacations

The top reasons why people do not fully use vacation days, according to the Expedia poll:

  • They need to schedule vacation time in advance.
  • They were too busy at work to get away.
  • They get money back for unused vacation days.

The study also found differences between women and men. Men (12 percent) are slightly more likely than women (8 percent) to take two-week vacations. Women (40 percent) are also more likely than men (29 percent) to feel guilty about taking time off from work.

The United States “has long-held the dismaying distinction of being the country with the worst vacationing habits,” according to Expedia.

Blame it on the Protestant Work Ethic, writes Biali. Europeans have a legal right to take at least four weeks off a year and many take eight weeks off. Even the Chinese get three weeks off. “Why? Because they know that relaxed, well-rested employees work better and more efficiently,” she said.

Tips for Getting Away from Work

Vacations are important for renewal, writes Dulce Zamora for WebMD. “Sometimes, it’s good to give our brains a rest. Without a break, we may not be able to perform up to our potential. This can be a problem, not only for the employee, but for the employer as well.”

Zamora compiled a wonderful list of recommendations on how to get away. Here are a few:

  • Plan your vacation time. Don’t stop with making travel plans in advance. Prepare co-workers for your time off as well. “Keep people in the loop on what you’re working on and try not to take on projects that will require your presence during vacation,” Zamora notes.
  • Talk to your boss. “Be honest and straightforward about your need for time away from work and share how it can benefit the company.”
  • Set boundaries and stick to them. “If you absolutely must work during vacation, figure out a schedule that will limit your connectivity to work.”
  • Look at the bigger picture. “Will the office truly fall apart if you’re not there?”

In another WebMD article, 4 Tips for a Less Stressful Vacation, Zamora provides tips for planning a more relaxing vacation. It’s worth a read.

“While it is ideal to have a full week or two off from work,” Zamora adds, “it may not always be feasible and there’s still the rest of the year to deal with. Weekend getaways are also good for rejuvenation. So is an hour to yourself during lunchtime or a few hours on weeknights. When it comes to forming family and social bonds during your time off, it’s really about spending quality time.”

In Your Shoes is created by Johnston & Murphy, offering quality shoes and outerwear for women and men. We welcome your comments and contributions.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2010 8:55 pm

    Don’t let my girlfriend see this article she’ll certainly work harder at making me take a vacation. I one of those who live to work because I love it. Owning your own business makes it a tad harder. Actually I guess this blog makes me think a little more about it. Thanks, this gives me something to think about.

  2. July 12, 2010 1:11 pm

    Scott – thanks for reading! I definitely love my work too. It’s good to take a little break and return feeling energized and inspired.

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