Going on a relaxing vacation has the same physiological effects as meditation, according to a recent study from Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Yet, there’s a vast population of workers who simply have no problem earning – and then forfeiting – multiple days of paid vacation each year.
In 2016, employees left 662 million vacation days on the table, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off. Think about it this way: These people donated about $600 in work time to their employers because they didn’t take accrued vacation days.
For those of us who live for sunny days on the beach or endless sunsets in a foreign land, this idea seems absurd. But for some Americans – and this is true for a significant portion of Millennials – forgoing holiday is a small price to pay in order to appear remarkably dependable to their boss.
The rise of the work martyr
“No one else at my company can do the work while I’m away. I want to show complete dedication to my company and job. I don’t want others to think I am replaceable. [And] I feel guilty for using my paid time off.” - Project: Time Off
Work martyrs simply shun the idea of taking time off. In a competitive job market, who can blame anyone for such unwavering dedication to the grind?
The Mount Sinai School of Medicine likened the biological impacts of a relaxing vacation to the positive effects of meditation. That means, after digging your bare feet in the sand for a few days, scientists could see a reduction in the biological processes related to stress. They also saw notable changes in gene activity related to stress response and immune function.
In other words, they said going on vacation can be good for your body, as in it performs better and fights illness more efficiently. Not to mention, a recent Cornell University study found people feel more gratitude for what they’ve done than what they own. So a vacation could make a positive mark on your emotions, too.
When you know it’s time to pull the plug
If you’re the type who passes a day off in lieu of a day at the office, you’re obviously hard-working and interested in career success. I’ll also bet you need a vacation more than most.
So if you notice you’re wound up, losing sleep, or feeling tension headaches, it might be time to determine if you’re over-stressed.
The problem with not hitting the reset button could mean you’re experiencing prolonged periods of stress, which can spell bad news for your muscles, heart, and endocrine system, according to the American Psychological Association.
If you’re really interested in impressing the boss, here’s something that could appeal to the workaholic: Taking time off could boost your creative thinking.
“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” said Adam Galinsky, as quoted in The Atlantic.
Going on vacation could help you at work!
Step-by-step guide to taking a vacation
If you’re a hard worker afraid to go on vacation, or need some help on where to start, here are some ideas.
Plan ahead. No kidding. More than half of workers who set aside time each year to plan their vacations use all of their vacations days, as opposed to 40% of those who didn’t plan.
Create a workplace backup plan. Prepare your coworkers. Craft an uber-helpful out of office email. Make sure coworkers who have your back are thoroughly cross-trained. Doing these before you leave will help contribute to full checkout mode. Plus, your higher ups will be impressed with your impeccable delegation.
Yes, your job needs you. But your body, your mind, and the people who love you really, really need you, too.