Now that summer’s officially here, you may be day-dreaming of relaxing on the beach, with a good book and piña colada in hand. Or maybe you’re imagining spending a few days off-the-grid, exploring the mountains and camping out under the stars.
No matter which option sounds more appealing to you, there’s an unfortunate chance you’ll do…nothing. If you’re like 52% of Americans, you’re going to leave unused vacation days on the table, rather than take your well-deserved time off.
Why do we do this to ourselves?! According to research by Project: Time Off, the top cited reasons include the dread of returning from a vacation to piles of work (40%, the belief that no one will be able to step in and do their job for them while they’re gone (35%), not being able to afford it (33%) and the fear of being seen as replaceable (22%).
But we’re to tell you: Not only is it 100% okay to take your vacation days, but it’s also essential for your mental health—as well as your performance at work.
Work is a major source of stress for Americans. In fact, 65% of us cite work as our top source of stress. This chronic stress can lead to many health conditions, from headaches to weight gain to high blood pressure, and is the cause of nearly $300 billion in healthcare costs annually.
What helps lower that stress? Taking a relaxing trip—away from the office. A study by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from your usual stress-inducing activities and environments (i.e. your cubicle).
Plus, vacation actually improves your productivity and performance, despite the fact that many of us think the opposite is true.
According to a 2006 Ernst & Young study, every additional 10 hours of vacation an employee took improved his or her performance ratings went up by 8%—nearly 1% per day of vacation. The study also found that employees who took regular vacations were less likely to leave the company.
Still not convinced? We’re happy to scare you into booking that flight:
- This study found that men who take frequent vacations were 21 percent less likely to die from any cause, and 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease, from men who don’t take as much time off.
- The landmark Framingham Heart Study revealed that men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who did take time off.
- One study of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year.
So whether your trip of choice is a tropical, warm-weather escape or a mountain getaway, start looking for flights now—after you clear the time off with your manager, of course!