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5 Reasons to Take that Vacation

[Written for LinkedIn]

It’s no secret that it takes more than just a little needling to pry your average American worker from their desk and into a cabana — in fact, Americans purportedly wasted a record-setting 658 million vacation days in 2015. If you find yourself needing a little extra convincing to drop the pivot tables and back away slowly, here are a few totally-solid reasons to let your face feel sunlight again (if only for a few days a year):

It’s endorsed by some heavy-hitting historical figures

Company culture not vacation-friendly? Boss foaming at the mouth at the mention of PTO? Feel free to pedantically recite any of the following (and repeat as needed):

Aristotle: “Leisure is necessary for the development of virtue and the performance of political duties.”

Ben Franklin: “He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.”

Maya Angelou: “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future… Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

You’re probably not even that important so stop being a martyr

Project: Time Off survey lists “no one else can do my job” as the second-greatest obstacle employees face when considering taking time off. Even if this was true (is it, really?), unless you’re Paul Farmer and have dedicated your life to fighting multidrug-resistant TB and other infectious disease in some of the poorest cities across the globe, then the revised battlecards you need to get to Troy in sales can probably wait a few days.

Not convinced? Let’s invoke Ms. Angelou one more time: “Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.”

It’s good for your heart

Though admittedly done in Sweden, a new study published in the American Heart Journal demonstrated that the daily incidence rate of myocardial infarctions (read: heart attacks) was markedly lower during weekends and summer vacation months than the rate for Mondays and the winter holidays (read: extended family in town).

As PhD student and study author John Wallert put it, “Our study seems to suggest that psychosocial demands on behavior influences basal biological systems, even to such an extent that they may be potential trigger for MI.”

Translation: your lack of vacation probably isn’t literally killing you, but also it literally could.

Your kids are slowly forgetting what your voice sounds like

Americans reportedly work “137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” Couple that with the fact that the US is the only “industrialized” country in the world with no legally-mandated annual leave and no paid leave for new parents, then the odds are pretty good that you could stand to spend a little extra time with the offspring.

For the love of God, you might actually feel better

Employee burnout is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue in the American workforce — to the extent that about half of employees feel they have poor work-life balance. If you’re stressed at work or experiencing burnout, then disengaging from your normal routine and taking a few days off can do a world of good (and if you’re one of the 30% of Americans that say they do a significant amount of work while on vacation, please revisit your interpretation of “disengage”).

In all seriousness, it’s clear that employees who prioritize mental health, time off, and the occasional rejuvenatory vacation are more likely to be productive and perform well. Incidentally, Project: Time Off found that employees who take 10 vacation days (or fewer) are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more.

Taking time off isn’t a frivolous endeavor — it’s an investment in your health and wellbeing that can reap rewards in both your productivity at work, and your happiness overall.