This Is Why You Should Use Your Vacation Days

June 20, 2017, 9:00 PM UTC
Retired businessman paddling in sea
Retired businessman paddling in sea
Photograph by Chad Springer — Cultura Exclusive via Getty Images

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Whether you’ve been craving a Caribbean cruise, dreaming about a European adventure, or just need a week at home to conquer your laundry list of home improvement projects, you might not take the time off of work to actually do it. Most Americans don’t, and we’re worse off for it.

In their annual study, the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off found that 54% of employees left unused vacation time on the table in 2016, collectively throwing away 662 million vacation days.


Here are a few reasons why it’s important to take a vacation and some tips on how to fully disconnect on your time off.

Vacations are good for your personal health

Ever notice how you feel physically better when you’re on vacation? The reason goes beyond those fancy drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. Science routinely provides evidence that vacations are great for your mental and physical health. (Check out the multiple studies cited by Project Time Off. Science for the win.)

A 2015 study by the American Psychological Association found that vacations make for a great stress reliever. Even stress-related physical complaints like headaches and backaches can vanish for as much as five weeks after taking a vacation, according to a study from the University of Vienna. Multiple studies have also found that workers who take vacations are less at risk of heart disease.

Point is, if all you do is work, work, work, then you’ll burnout and your body might end up paying the price. Taking a trip is a great way to prevent that from happening.

Not working will make you a better worker

Want to do better at work? Rather than put more time in, the secret might be to take more time off. An internal Ernst & Young study found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved by 8%. Tell that to your workaholic boss.

A change of scenery can also help change your perspective and boost your creativity and clarity. Monster career expert Vicki Salemi says a vacation—or even one day decompressing at home—can help you return to work refreshed and ready to give it your all.

Take off and stay off

Before you leave, Salemi says you need to remind your boss, colleagues, and clients of your planned absence, and brief whoever will be taking over your responsibilities while you’re away.

That’s the easy part. The hard part is actually sticking to that plan and not giving in to the temptation of checking emails or voicemails.

“When you indicated that you’re away and not checking messages, it looks weird if you start responding to messages,” Salemi says. “Especially if you’re a boss, you absolutely need to set an example to your team that when you’re OOO (out of office), you need to stay OOO.”

After you check in to your vacation spot, you need to check out of work. To do this, you may literally have to keep your phone out of sight in order for work to be out of mind.

Got a travel buddy? Salemi suggests using them as an accountability buddy—if you check in at the office, you owe them money. Think of it like a swear jar, but for work stuff.

Of course, a great idea or a work concern may suddenly rear its head. “Any time a work thought pops into my mind,” Salemi says, “I write it down in a notebook and safely park it there until my vacation is over.”

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Make no apologies

You deserve the joy of looking forward to a little getaway; the world won’t end because you’re out of pocket for a week or more. Unfortunately, Project Time Off’s study found that 34% of workers opt against taking time off because they believe no one else can do the job. Others have reputations as “work martyrs,” and fear that their absence will create too much of a burden for their co-workers.

Sometimes, those feelings stem from a boss who makes you feel guilty for taking a vacation—your rightful and well-deserved vacation. Salemi says that’s when it’s time to look for a new job on Monster.

“It’s one thing if your employer discourages you from taking a vacation during a busy season, but it’s quite another to discourage you from taking any time off in general,” Salemi says. “It sends a strong signal that they don’t value you as a person.”

You deserve to work for a company that believes in work-life balance (maybe even unlimited vacation day policies) and knows that a guilt-free vacation will make you a more effective employee.