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Do You Feel Guilty About Using Vacation Benefits?

Why You Should Use All Your Vacation Time at Work

According to the U.S. Travel Association, American workers collectively throw away over 600 million earned vacation days every year . Here's why you should use all your earned vacation time, along with some strategies for planning a more restorative vacation.

Counting the Benefits

While Americans are known for working hard; too much work can be harmful. On the other hand, numerous scientific studies have shown that vacation time can significantly improve mental and physical health . Among the most noteworthy benefits include:

  • Time off promotes better work-life balance by allowing workers to renew and sustain relationships with friends and family.
  • Paid vacations provide employees with much-needed, worry-free time to address their personal needs.
  • Regular vacations provide opportunities to recoup and recover from mental and physical exhaustion.
  • Research indicates that workers experience improved sleep and increased productivity in the weeks following vacations.
  • One study found that frequent annual vacations led to a 21-percent reduction in overall mortality rates.

How it Helps Employers

Many times, workers effectively forfeit vacation time, because they feel guilty, pressured or worried that work will pile up on their desks. From an employer's point of view, this appears to be advantageous. In reality, however, research has shown that employers get better returns when they encourage their workers to take time off.

According to an internal study by the accounting firm Ernst & Young, employees improved their year-end performance rating by 8 percent for every ten hours of vacation time taken . What's more, regular vacationers were also much more likely to remain with the firm long-term.

As more and more employers become aware of how vacation time can benefit their bottom lines, they are taking steps to make workers feel more comfortable about using their earned vacation days. In fact, many are beginning to view their vacation policies as another competitive advantage that can give them a leg up on the competition.

Planning a Restorative Vacation

While vacations can help rejuvenate the mind and body, they don't all provide equal benefits. According to the Harvard Business Review, research suggests that most vacations do not ultimately reduce stress or improve energy levels . This is mostly due to stressful and poorly planned vacations that eliminate the therapeutic advantages of time away.

Research indicates that you can maximize vacation benefits by traveling far from work, planning ahead so you feel confident and safe, and establishing social connections while on the trip. The data suggest that these simple acts can drastically improve your vacation ROI, so you will feel more rested and ready to return to your job.

You should also make sure you are really taking time off work when you are on vacation. This means ignoring work-related emails, text messages and phone calls. It also means clearly explaining that you will not be available during the entirety of your vacation, so your boss and coworkers won't be tempted to contact you.

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