Take the Day Off, America!

IMG_0922 (1)According to a US Travel Association Study released in August, Americans left 768 million (Yes, million!) vacation days on the table last year.  They found that 55% of Americans did not use all of their vacation days last year (https://www.ustravel.org/press/study-record-768-million-us-vacation-days-went-unused-18-opportunity-cost-billions).  That is mind boggling. I am not proud of this fact, but I have to admit that I am among those who did not use all my vacation days last year. In fact, I think the only years that I did were the years that I needed them to work on my doctorate. Don’t get me wrong, I take time off.  Since my daughter came along, we planned a lot of my vacation time around her schedule- her breaks from school and her sporting events. But even if I add in family vacation time, I still don’t take all that I am afforded. When I am on vacation, I still sneak a peak at email or bring that report I need to read or write. Apparently, I am not alone.

Sadly, this epiphany led me to more research, which should not be a surprise to anyone who reads my blog regularly.  Now, I am really concerned, particularly in light of the research on the impact of taking or not taking vacation, as the case may be.  Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, in her Psychology Today article You Really Do Need a Vacation, lays out some compelling reasons to take vacation (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/201807/you-really-do-need-vacation):

  • Women who go six or more years without vacation increase the likelihood of developing heart disease by a factor of 8.  It is even worse for men whose chance of a heart attack is increased by a factor of 32 when they fail to take a yearly vacation.
  • Vacation, if you can leave your work behind, reduces stress. Though temporary, this leads to better reaction times and increased ability to be present to what is happening. Less stress means less stress-related illnesses and injuries as well.
  • Vacation has a tremendous impact on overall productivity.  A mere 10 hours of vacation leads to an increase of 8% in job productivity.
  • Vacation increases employee loyalty, job satisfaction and creativity.  So, taking vacation benefits your employer as well.

By the way, I should say that as I write this, I am having the best vacation ever.  Am I in Hawaii? If you know me at all, you know that would be a no. Iceland?  More likely, but no. My daughter is home from college. My husband is home recuperating from his second knee replacement. We are on week two of family and friends time, and Adventure Days. My daughter picked a tour of the best coffee shops for writing in Seattle as the theme for our Adventure Days. We have toured cafes in Fremont, Wallingford, Ballard, Green Lake, and Capitol Hill in search of inspiration. We have worked on our blogs and had endless conversation. We have had family game nights and movie nights. I started a new batch of Cabernet Sauvignon. It has been awesome! I have not done any work. I should say that I love my work. Anyone, who has heard me speak about my work, knows that I am ridiculously enthusiastic about educational data and research.  My brain is a very active place. Where challenges are concerned, I am a hunter by nature. It is not easy to turn that off. But I know that  Dr. Degges-White is correct about vacation. I feel so energized.  I can feel the batteries recharging that will power the rest of this year.

This is the first time I remember, since I started working at 14, that my boss explicitly said turn off your phone, put an out of office on your email, and be with your family.  Probably most bosses I have had meant that, or assumed I would do that, but none have said it explicitly.  That made me wonder if I have been explicit with my team.  I sure will be in the future. What do you say, America!? Isn’t it time you took a couple days off? You owe it to yourself and your employer to be healthier and more productive. Taking your vacation might just be the best way to do that.

Copyright Catherine Matthews 2019


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