"Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action." ~Peter Drucker
“You can always make money. You can’t always make memories.” ~Unknown
Today’s work environment is overstuffed with priorities, commitments, projects and other drains on your time. Add to this the constant connectivity you have to work and you are likely of the opinion you could use a vacation. But guess what? Most people don’t use their vacation time. Workers, on average, fail to use nearly five vacation days a year, the U.S. Travel Association found.
In many cases you may face an organization or a boss who overtly or passively-aggressively discourages you to take vacation. They roll their eyes at the request, pile on work before or after, deny the request for “business reasons”, or bombard you with emails and texts when you actually do escape.
In other cases, you may actually talk yourself out of taking your vacation all by yourself. The most common refrains are “It’s not worth it because of all the work I come back to after” or some form of “the place will fall apart without me.” But there are many others like scheduling, money, the social aspects of work and others.
But what you and your boss are missing are the enormous workplace benefits of taking a vacation. Remember, even if you take your vacation you’ll still be at work 90%-95% of the calendar year. If you’re not at peak effectiveness during this time it could have a DRAMATICALLY larger impact on overall productivity than vacation alone. While taking time off doesn’t guarantee productivity, it can improve your work performance in a number of ways:
One of the primary benefits to taking time off from work is that it allows you to get out of the proverbial routine. When you go to work five days a week, six days for many people, you become conditioned to follow a specific pattern. This pattern is designed to get you to work on time and to follow through with the objectives of your job. There isn’t often enough time to truly “recharge the batteries” even with a weekend. Fatigue and routine are rarely hallmarks of creativity. Getting away and really recuperating from the stresses of the job can help you start with a clean slate and reignite creativity.
Increased Energy & Focus
Athletes know that proper rest is essential to proper performance. The same goes for everyone else. Instead of being weighed down by constant pressure, time away allows our mind to reset and our bodies to de-stress from the regular work routine. This results in more energy upon your return. And it isn’t just energy. By clearing your plate of distractions that always seem to build up over the course of days and weeks you will find it easier to focus on the tasks in front of you once you are back in the office.
A Better Attitude
One of the main reasons people want to go on vacation is to get away from the frustrations, irritations and stresses of their work. With all of the work that is put on your plate and the constant call to multitask and do more, today’s work environment is as stressful as ever. This fact only exacerbates the frustration that many workers feel on a daily basis, which can lead to a poor attitude in anyone. While the frustrations may always be there, you may find that you deal with them better after a break from them for a time.
Time to Think
Just because you are away from the office doesn’t mean that you won’t be thinking about work. Many people find that when they get away they are able to think clearer about both small and large things at the workplace and set a new direction once they get back. This is one of the benefits I personally experience on almost every vacation I take. One good idea or course of action.
“Patience wears thin” is a saying that encapsulates the fact that most people have a limited amount of patience. Many leaders have recognized this and manage their own behavior so that they don’t make important decisions when they are in a state of impatience. Creating a clean break with a vacation is one of the things that fills the tank of patience to the top for all of us.
A Desire to Do More
When you’re tired you don’t often feel like you are up to a challenge or taking on more duties. When you are fully rested, however, you might find yourself actively looking for something more to do. This is especially common in ambitious individuals who have already seen promotion and recognition and know that they usually come from “going that extra mile.”
Better Health (Less Sick Time)
Many studies have been done about the effects of stress on the human body, specifically on the immune system. The more stress that you have in your life, the more likely it is that you will develop maladies that can affect your overall health. By taking a vacation, you can leave the stress behind, allowing your immune system to get back to normal. This way, you can not only feel better mentally and emotionally by taking a vacation, but also improve your physical health.
Embrace New Things
That different environment that you escape to on vacation actually helps you embrace new things when you return. Many leaders have an aversion to new things, they are unknown variables, and many organizations thrive on predictability. Having a pleasant experience in a different or new environment can break through much of this resistance.
Practice “Rolling with the Punches”
Rarely does a vacation go off without a hitch. And given the new or different environments you may be in as outlined above, this is exercises your ability to be flexible. Like an athlete that cross-trains in a different discipline to get stronger in their primary discipline, this is a new environment to practice flexibly adjusting to a changing plan. By going through the experience on vacation you will make your work flexibility that much better.
Have you ever been away from your “daily grind” for a period of time and eventually find that you “just can’t wait to get home?” Almost all of us have at one time or another. Getting away from your regular surroundings and experiencing something new often has the effect of making us appreciate what we left behind; the routine, the familiarity, the accomplishment. It’s not that the vacation was bad, it’s just that you gain some perspective on things you take for granted.
Now of course all of these benefits are mitigated if you don’t truly create that break and are checking in on the office regularly or are receiving e-mails and texts from your boss and team when you are on vacation. But with that one caveat, there are an enormous amount of benefits to getting away on vacation, not the least of which is coming back even better at your job than when you left.