“What shall you do all your vacation?’, asked Amy. “I shall lie abed and do nothing”, replied Meg.”
― Louisa May Alcott,
Once upon a time, I presented on the topic of managing stress in the workplace. Here is the scenario I gave them: Would you rather have two more weeks of vacation or a dollar more an hour?
There were roughly 100 people in the audience and not a single person chose the vacation time. I was not prepared for this response (I thought at least one person would choose more time off) and I had to adapt my presentation on the fly. Before I adapted my presentation, I could not help but lecture the room on the importance of using their vacation time.
“Unfortunately, as the workplace rewards the most driven, play time is seen as unproductive or lazy. Scientists discovered that when young rats are deprived of play, their brains don’t develop properly and their cortisol—our stress hormone—stays so high, the rats die.”
Now, I understand that many people do not get paid vacation or even paid sick time (which we should all be ashamed of). For example, many servers and cooks do not get paid sick time and often opt to work when ill because they need the money. Take a moment and think about that.
But for some people they all have hundreds of hours of paid time off just sitting in their accounts. For some people, they even lose the time off every year because it does not roll over into the next year or the cash in the time off for money. Maybe you can’t afford to go somewhere but you can certainly afford to stay home and rest. Please, take a staycation.
“The landmark Framingham Heart Study – the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease – 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 not take time off. And women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.”
The research is clear. Taking vacation is essential to being a productive employee. You will be better at your job if you take some time away. You will also be a better partner and parent if you take time off. More importantly, using your time off will improve your overall health.
I’ve heard a lot of excuses in terms of why people do not take time off. I know that you’ll come back to hundreds of emails and you will miss meetings and conversations while you are gone. This missing out will provoke anxiety and that is perfectly okay.
The way business works is that the organization will wring you out for all your productivity (money) until you are worth nothing and then they will replace you with someone younger and cheaper. This is not political commentary, this is just the truth. Business is about money not about health. If only the people at the top understood, healthy employees create better business.
And what good is the money if you’re not alive to spend it or enjoy it being spent?
“Work while you can and rest when you must.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita