Vacation Days Are Good for Your Health

So why are we so bad at taking them?

Vacation Days Are Good for Your Health

You earned your vacation days. Take them!

We all know about the mental health benefits of taking vacation days. You need to give your body and mind a restorative break, no matter what industry you're in. And at many companies, a use-it-or-lose-it policy means that if you don't take the days off, you're essentially working those days for free. Not to mention that unused PTO days cost businesses hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

That in and of itself should be enough motivation for you to set your out-of-office email reply and taking advantage of your paid time off. But Americans are historically not good at taking the vacation time we've rightfully earned. In fact, even after the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a halt in all travel (business and leisure), American workers were still not using the vacation time they earned, according to US Travel.

These troubling statistics related to not taking vacation time point to signs of overworking and impending burnout, which has been linked to poor performance and lack of job satisfaction. So what's a worker to do?

Simple answer: Use your vacation days. It's understandable to want to save up for when you have a real getaway planned, but you might end up with more PTO days at the end of the year than you can actually take. Remember when we mentioned that thing about working for free if you don't take PTO? Yeah, you don't want that to happen.

Below are a few more reasons why it's essential to take vacation days, plus some tips on how to fully disconnect on your time off.

Vacation Days Are Good for Your Personal Health

Ever notice how you feel so much better when you're on vacation? The reason goes beyond those fancy drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. Science routinely provides evidence that vacation days are great for your mental and physical health.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that vacations make for great stress and anxiety relievers. 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.

The point is, if all you do is work, work, work, then you'll burnout, and your body might end up paying the price. Even just spending a day curled up with a good book, taking a scenic drive, or catching up with friends via video chat are great ways to prevent that from happening.

Vacation Days Can 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.

How to Take Off and Stay Off

Before you leave, Monster Career Expert Vicki 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 emails," 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." To do this, you may have to keep your phone out of sight in order for work to be out of mind.

Got a PTO 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.

Don't Be a Work Martyr

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, lots of workers opt against taking vacation time because they believe no one else can do their job. Others have reputations as "work martyrs," and fear that their absence will create too much of a burden for their coworkers.

Sometimes, those feelings can stem from a boss who makes you feel guilty for taking a vacation—your rightful and well-deserved vacation.

"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."

Get a Better Job with a Defined PTO Plan

If you're stuck at a job that doesn't see the benefit in vacation days, it's time to look for a new job. Need some help with that? Monster has your back. We can help you find a job that fits your needs. You deserve to work for a company that believes in work-life balance and knows that a guilt-free vacation time will make you a more effective employee.