This is why you should use your vacation days

Not only is taking time off good for your mental and physical health, but it can also make you a better employee and help your career.

This is why you should use your vacation days

Use your PTO

Even though you've been craving a Caribbean cruise, dreaming about a European adventure, or simply looking forward to a week at home to conquer your list of home improvement projects, you might not take time off of work to do it. Most Americans don't, and we're worse off for it.

In a recent Monster poll, 10% of respondents said they don't think they'll use all their vacation days this year and 29% don't have any vacation plans but will try to take random days off throughout the year. That doesn't sound like a real plan. Although the U.S. Travel Association found a slight uptick in the number of vacation days Americans are taking, we're still forfeiting 212 million vacation days a year, or a whopping $62.2 billion in lost benefits. 

Ouch.

It's time to turn that dream trip into a reality. Believe it or not, your boss and co-workers will be glad you did. Here are a few reasons why it's essential 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 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 vacations are great for your mental and physical health. 

study by the American Psychological Association found that vacations make for great stress 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. Taking a trip (or even just spending a day curled up with a good book) 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.

Traveling can help your career

Got wanderlust? Even though the average employee takes 17.2 days of vacation, the U.S. Travel Association report found that less than half of that time—only eight days—is used for travel. In fact, 23% of respondents didn’t use any of their time off to see the world.

And it’s not because you don’t want to—34% of Monster survey respondents plan to take a summer trip this year. But are you a mega-traveler—someone who uses all or most of their vacation days to travel? Mega-travelers have been shown to be significantly happier than “homebodies,” or those who use little to none of their time traveling.

Want a raise or promotion at work? Get out of town! According to the report, mega-travelers also have a greater likelihood of receiving a promotion, raise, bonus, or a combination of the three than those who simply stay at home.

Then again, if you really have the travel bug, you can always find a job that pays you to travel.

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.”

Forget the “workcation”

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 52% 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.

Given America’s demanding work culture, there’s a rise in “workcations,” or making the decision to travel somewhere with the intent of working a regular schedule remotely. While only 10% actually reported taking a workcation, it only further gives evidence of work martyrdom and the need for employees to fully disconnect.

Sometimes, those feelings can 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. 

Is your job search on hiatus?

Sometimes, the best time to apply for a new job is after you return from vacation. But even if you’re perfectly content with your current job, it’s always a good idea to keep an ear open to new opportunities. How can you keep your job search going strong all year long? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can get job alerts sent right to your inbox, which will help cut down on the time you’d spend combing through ads—and give you more time to plan your next vacay.