Over 137 countries mandate paid vacation time – the U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not, notes John de Graaf, co-founder of The Happiness Initiative.
Allina Health reports that 212 million vacation days get forfeited by U.S. employees every year.
If you are like some of us, you may have had the experience of taking a vacation and coming back to a pile of work and wondering – was it worth it? Or you may fear that taking a break will make you appear less committed to your co-workers/company leadership.
But here is why everyone needs a stress-reducing vacation.
7 benefits of taking a vacation
Research has shown taking time away from your job can have physical and mental health benefits.
Employees who take vacations tend to have lower stress, show a reduced risk of heart disease, have a better outlook on life and feel more motivated to achieve goals.
Sometimes it is hard to quantify or see these benefits in ourselves, but we can see them in others. Allina Health offers these seven benefits of taking a vacation.
1. Improve physical health
It is a proven fact that stress can contribute to both heart disease and high blood pressure. The New York Times reported results from a long-term heart health study on women, which showed that those who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.
The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial study done in 2000 looked at 12,000 men over a period of nine years who were at high risk for coronary heart disease. Those who failed to take annual vacations had a 21% higher risk of death from all causes and were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack.
2. Improve mental health
Neuroscientists have found constant exposure to stress can alter your brain structure, making you more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Taking a vacation can induce feelings of calm and relieve stress. This can allow your body and mind to heal in ways they could not if you were still “under pressure.”
3. Greater well-being
While it is sometimes hard to quantify the value of taking a break or going on a vacation – according to a Gallup study, people who “always make time for regular trips (vacations)” had a 68.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway’s Well-Being Index – in comparison to a 51.4 Well-Being score for less frequent vacationers.
Another study found three days after a vacation, the research subjects’ physical complaints, quality of sleep and mood had all improved compared to pre-vacation – and these gains were still present five weeks later (especially in those who had taken the more personal time and experienced a higher level of overall satisfaction during their vacation).
4. Increase mental motivation
Taking time off can be like a “tune-up” for your brain, improving mental health and cognition. Many who return from vacation find themselves more focused and productive. Research has also found chronic stress can make it challenging to do specific tasks and create memory problems.
5. Improve family relations
Spending time with loved ones can certainly help keep relationships strong – and these strong relationships can help ensure things at work improve. A study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.
6. Decrease burnout
Employees who take regular time to relax are less prone to burnout. This makes these employees more resilient and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
7. Boost happiness
Research has shown that just planning a vacation can boost your happiness – some people experience an elevated mood up to eight weeks before their trip.
How to plan a stress-reducing vacation
Researchers from Harvard, published in the Harvard Business Review, found that “if you plan ahead, create social connections on the trip, go far from your work, and feel safe, 94% of vacations have a good ROI in terms of your energy and outlook upon returning to work.”
But be sure to plan the trip at least a month ahead, as one of the critical predictors of vacation ROI is the amount of stress caused by not planning.
Financial benefits of vacations
The Harvard researchers also reported the financial benefits of taking a vacation – which may seem completely counterintuitive.
The authors found employees who took less than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period. People who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus. Why?
All the benefits outlined above ultimately impacted the individual’s work performance, which positively impacted compensation. Perhaps this is the old mantra ‘work smarter, not harder’ in action.
Management sets the precedent
As a feed and grain manager, what example are you setting for your employees? Maybe you buy into everything we have said above but feel ‘vacations are great for my employees, but I don’t need one – work is my vacation!’
If you don’t take vacations or breaks, your employees may not believe they have the license to do so, depriving them and your feed-and-grain business of the benefits that vacations bring.
Taking a break and going on a vacation can have tangible benefits, which makes for a stronger work environment and, ultimately, a stronger feed and grain organization.
How do we ensure this happens in the hectic work world you navigate daily? As a manager, take the time to encourage your employees to use their vacation time. Set a good example by making time for yourself.
Do this, and you will have refreshed, rejuvenated employees and all the benefits that brings.