The Benefits Of Taking Time Off From Work
Because we’re Americans, we often wear our busyness like a badge of honor. The busier we are, the more important we feel.
But there’s a dark side to this mentality. Overworking leads to burnout, poor physical health, and even compromised relationships. Research suggests taking more time off can have a net positive effect on your life.
The Dangers of Overworking
According to a study by the U.S. Travel Association, 768 million vacation days go unused each year. An estimated 55 percent of people report not taking all of the paid time off offered by their employer.
In other words, the average American earns 23.9 days of PTO per year, but only takes 17.4 days. Even when people do take time off, they often spend some of that “vacation” checking their email, fielding work phone calls, and thinking about the tasks that are piling up while they’re away.
There’s a difference between working hard and overworking. Working around the clock and rarely taking time off is more likely the latter – and the effects are decidedly negative.
Physical health problems from work stress pose a greater risk for serious complications. For example, people who work 55 or more hours per week face a 13 percent greater risk of suffering a heart attack, and they’re 33 percent more likely to suffer a stroke (compared to those who work just 35 to 40 hours per week).
They’re also more likely to be obese and have unhealthy dietary habits. But it’s not just physical health problems that come into play.
Overworking also puts a strain on mental health. This includes issues such as anxiety, depression, and burnout. And because overworking is correlated with lack of sleep, it can also have an impact on immunity and cognitive abilities.
Benefits of Taking Time Off
Taking time off is beneficial on multiple levels. Advantages include:
- Increased productivity. The brain only has a limited amount of focus. You can think of it like the battery on your phone. The more it gets used, the more it drains. And once it’s empty, it has to be recharged before it can be used again. Breaks give your brain a break and allow it to reboot, resulting in greater productivity when you return.
- Better physical health. When you take time off, you have more opportunities to be healthy. This includes exercising, eating well, and even making time for rejuvenating practices like meditation, prayer, or journaling.
- Lower risk of burnout. The easiest way to lower your risk of burnout is by taking time away from your job to focus on other matters. This is like hitting a reset button. It creates separation in your life and enables you to re-establish balance.
- Improved relationships. It’s difficult to maintain healthy relationships when you’re working 60-plus hours per week. Taking time off helps improve relationships with friends, family, and even co-workers.
How to Take More Time Off
You should take some time away from your work every few weeks. Sometimes, you just need a day or two at home to reset emotionally.
At other times, you may require a week at a place like Las Ventanas al Paraiso. But whatever the case may be, here are some suggestions for making it happen:
- Just ask. The first step is simply to ask. It might be better to say notify. Asking insinuates that you’re requesting permission, but remember: You’re just using the vacation days that your boss has promised you as part of your employment contract. Be confident and name the dates. But out of respect, ask as far in advance as you can.
- Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be out of the office for a 10-day vacation next month, start preparing two or three weeks ahead of time. Get some advance work done, if needed. Notify the appropriate parties. Set up your email autoresponders. This will save you a lot of frustration when you return.
- Spread it out. To get maximum benefits, spread out your vacation days throughout the year. Don’t take one three-week vacation and then work for 49 weeks thereafter. You’re better off taking off two or three days one month, a couple more the next, and so on. You can also plan strategically around weekends and holidays to extend your breaks.
- Be more productive. Do you work for a company that advertises something like “unlimited paid time off”? The key to taking unlimited time off is to make sure you’re being as productive as possible when you are in the office. Your boss only cares about the value you add to the company. If you can add as much value working four days a week as others who work five, the management should let you take as much time off as you want.
Taking time off is rarely as simple as notifying your boss of your requested time away. In many cases, it requires you to look ahead thoughtfully and plan around your time off. But don’t let that deter you.
Put Your Health and Sanity First
There is no badge for overworking. There are, however, plenty of consequences. Prioritize your health by taking more time off. Your mind and body will thank you for years to come!