Why It's Important to Take a Vacation

Taking time off from work can bring physical and psychological benefits

Did you take all your paid vacation time last year? If not, you’re among the more than half of U.S. workers who chose to stay at their desks or behind counters instead of relaxing with friends and family, basking on a Hawai‘i beach or walking Boston’s Freedom Trail.

That is not a good thing. Americans’ reluctance to take time off has enormous consequences for their health, their families, and the U.S. economy. In 2017, 52 percent of American workers left vacation time unused, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off. Those 705 million unused vacation days last year translate into a $255 billion lost opportunity to the U.S. economy. Had workers used that time to vacation within the United States, the activity could have generated 1.9 million jobs. Whether you travel near or far, though, here are five reasons to take your vacation—and to encourage your employees to take theirs.

1. It’s good for your health. “Research done by the Framingham Heart Study and in MRFIT [Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial] supports the benefits of vacations to people’s health,” says Greta Lee Splansky, director of operations for Boston University’s Framingham Heart Study. The longitudinal study showed that men who skipped vacations face a 30 percent higher risk of having a heart attack than those who took an annual week-long holiday.

2. It makes you more productive. “In the knowledge economy, the key is attention, says work-life balance consultant and Work to Live author Joe Robinson. “Studies show that when you take a vacation, your brain gets restored; that makes us more productive.”

3. You’ll do better at your job. Americans who take all or most of their vacation days to travel—who Project: Time Off terms “mega-travelers”—tend to be more successful at work, according to the initiative’s most recent survey: 52 percent of mega-travelers reported receiving a promotion in the past two years, compared with Americans who use only some or little to none of their time to travel.

4. You’ll make your family happy. “We did research with kids ages 8 to 14 to see how they’re feeling about their parents working all the time, and they notice the stress,” says Project: Time Off’s communications director, Cait DeBaun. “We asked them how they want to spend quality time with their parents, and it’s on vacation—they get their parents’ full attention.”

5. It cures burnout. “Travel has the ability to satisfy the core needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness—what we humans need to be happy,” says Robinson. “Travel is a powerful instrument to awaken our potential—we come back with a sense of possibility in our lives.”

So, what are you waiting for?

Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman are Westways Travel Smart columnists. Check out their podcasts at www.ontravel.com

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