“I’m so burned out but how can I take a vacation without falling behind at work?”
Phone calls. Texts. Emails. Slack Messages. 24/7. The alerts never stop!
It has become entirely too easy to connect with work and extremely difficult to retreat for even a day or two of relaxation. The result of this twisted relationship with technology and work is less joy and more burnout. Wouldn’t you agree? I remember a time when I worried constantly about leaving my company for a few days to travel to Italy – for fear of the whole thing imploding and having to rebuild like the ruins in Rome! If you struggle with wanting to take a vacation from work but feel guilty about doing so – you’re not alone. A recent survey found that 54% of Americans fail to use all of their vacation days each year. In addition to that, big cities like DC, SF, and LA lead the way in this “vacation-less” lifestyle. No wonder we’re all stressed out!
Now is the time to seriously consider taking that vacation. Whether to improve mental health, connect with your family and friends on a deeper level, or to regain purpose and creativity at work, these are the reasons why you should say “Yes!” to PTO and not even think twice about it:
Vacations are good for your mental [and physical] health.
If I told you that perfect attendance at work might be a cause of that flu that knocked you out last month, would you believe me? Or – what about those 10 pounds you can’t seem to shake off in order to reach your goal weight? For better or for worse, constant work creates stress in our lives and the impact of that stress can be felt deeply on the molecular level. Here’s what Psychology Today says about the dangers of work-induced stress:
When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you’re more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you’ll make poorer decisions. You’ll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed.
– Psychology Today
Combat stress and build up your defenses by making vacation travel an integral part of your life!
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Vacations help you build deeper connections with the people who matter most to you.
Have you ever found yourself saying “gosh, I wish I spent more time with [Insert Employee Name] in Accounting more often!”? Probably not. But have you ever kicked yourself in the butt for not spending enough time with your spouse, your kids, or your friends who all get lost as we race to climb the ladder of workplace success? Probably! Vacation is a powerful way to connect with people you care about while building memories that can last a lifetime.
Don’t believe this is incredibly important? Here’s an exercise for you:
Step 1: Think about – and write down – your favorite memory from your last staff meeting.
Step 2: Think about – and write down – your favorite memory from a vacation you took as a child.
Step 3: Pause and think about which memory made you smile more… My guess is that it was the latter and not the former. And that warm feeling of joy that you got from your vaction memory? That’s actively elevating your mood and putting you in a better headspace!
When you retire, or change jobs, or sell your company (if you’re an entrepreneur) – you’re going to want to have people around you that enjoy being in your company. Don’t be that guy or girl who works so much that no one close to you really knows the real you!
Vacations help you “think outside the box” when it comes to creative approaches to tackling workplace issues.
Now, this might seem a bit counterproductive for me to encourage you to take a vacation if you want to become better at work – but it’s true. In a recent NBC News article, NYC-based Psychologist Dr. Kathryn Smerling says:
“By taking time off, you’ll find a renewed sense of purpose, more energy to carry out tasks and in general, an overall sense of happiness.”
The long and short of it all is that taking the time to step away from work just might be the very thing you need to help you step up at work! Who knows? You might meet someone in your field at the pool bar and chat about best practices. You could finally get the time to read that great self-help book you’ve been meaning to tackle but never found the time. Or, the quality of your time away might give you the time you needed to reflect on your life purpose and give you the push you need to really get into the driver’s seat of life!
Vacation is an incredibly powerful tool for both relaxation and career. It settles your spirit which helps combat work-induced stress and it gives you the time and space to build new memories with the people you love.
Take that vacation and fight work-related burnout as if your life depends on it because the reality is that it does.
News flash: Your company is literally throwing money down the drain by not focusing on employee wellness. If you’re not intentionally focused on the health and wellness of your employees, it’s literally costing you tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of dollars a year. Your employees are getting sicker because of it and profits are going down the drain.
Don’t believe me? Employee wellness numbers don’t lie.
According to the CDC, employee absenteeism (taking the day off when you’re sick) costs American corporations $1,685 per employee in productivity. The numbers aren’t much better either for presenteeism (staying at work when you’re sick). The Harvard Business Review has found that employees who show up to work while not well result in two-thirds the total cost of employee illness. Not to mention the fact that many illnesses are contagious and can spread from Sarah in Accounting to Michael in Marketing just because they’ve touched the same door handle – yuck!
So often we immediately default to physical challenges and dietary lifestyle changes when we think about employee wellness initiatives but it’s time to upgrade our thinking. These days, it’s not a lack of physical exercise that is the biggest hurdle to employee wellness and it’s not the fact that the break room isn’t stocked with apples and oranges. No, it’s the stress we feel at work that causes employees across the country to cope with unhealthy habits.
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How many times have you sat on the couch with pizza and wings for a weekend of Netflix binging because you needed to forget about the incredibly stressful challenges you’ve faced at work? How much has your waistline expanded since your last promotion – or since you launched your company – due to the exhausting pressure you feel to perform? You’re not alone.
The stress elephant in the room can be avoided no longer. We can no longer pretend that the proper response to ailing and demotivated employees at work is smoothies and step challenges. We need to reengineer the way we work and the expectations we have about work. We need to be intentional about creating an atmosphere where people feel mentally free and confident in their ability to stop and take a breather from time to time.
Here are a few helpful employee wellness tips to make your organization less stressful and more healthy and productive:
1. Encouraging Employees to Take Vacation
If we want to create an atmosphere of employee wellness, we have to encourage our employees to come up for air from time to time and take vacation. It doesn’t matter if that time away from work is spent at home decompressing or traveling to a new city, employees need vacations to reset and recharge their mental battery. A recent study by Project: Time Off revealed that Americans take a whole week less of vacation per year verse what Americans took off in 1978. Could you imagine what you’d do with an additional week of time spent with family and friends or adding cool pictures to your Instagram? I guarantee you’d be a much more refreshed and focused individual while at work and your employees would too.
There’s also a financial incentive to taking more time off. Believe it or not, HBR says that employees who take more time off get more raises than people who don’t. How’s that for combating the stigma that you’ve got to be in the office grinding away in order to get that promotion?
2. Incorporate Mindfulness Practice
Yoga. Meditation. Prayer. No matter your employee’s pathway towards reaching zen, it’s a worthwhile pursuit for you to encourage and celebrate. In a recent Business, Life, and Coffee podcast interview with Yoga Master Michael Kohan, we spoke about the vital role that mindfulness plays on awareness, engagement and productivity. Between the fights we have with our spouses before work this morning to the project deadline that looms ahead of us, we have many thoughts that compete for our attention during the day. Having the presence of mind to capture these thoughts and be present in whatever moment we are in is extremely powerful.
What if your organization was innovative enough to have a collective time of mindfulness. A five to ten minute “meeting” where you encourage employees to still their minds and seek peace. Mindfulness helps encourage self-control, flexibility, and peace of mind – all of which are important goals when addressing the next point.
3. Seek and Destroy Type-A Behavior
Behind the smile of every Type-A personality is the unbearable stress of a seemingly unmanageable workload. Okay, so that might not be true but Type-A personality often take work very seriously and display hostile and aggressive behavior that doesn’t work well in a small team environment. Scientist have produced study after study that show Type-A personalities get that way due to increased stress and that stress can be deadly. Take the image below:
Image Source: BMJ – click to enlarge
The chart shows Type-A behavioral patterns as a direct implication of home and work stress. Left unresolved, this behavior can contribute to physical manifestations of health challenges, low engagement, and lack of concentration. This behavior is exponentially toxic when displayed in a manager of people. I guarantee that there is a strong link between employees who “join organizations but leave bosses” who exhibit Type-A behavior and lash out on their teams.
If someone on your team has Type-A behavioral patterns, it’s time to speak up. What if we saw Type-A personality not as a badge of honor, but a sign that it’s time to pump the brakes a bit and take some time off? I’m sure your employees would benefit greatly from this approach.
These are just a few innovative ways you can increase mental and physical well-being at work. Employee wellness is not just about physical fitness but it’s also about mental health, focus, and clarity of mind.
Got another employee wellness tip to share? Comment below.