By now, we all know that taking a vacation boosts our overall health and happiness. So then why is that every year half of Americans give up their paid time off? It's seemingly less clear that both employers and employees understand exactly just how good taking time off is for your health.
The always-working, no-time-off paradigm in America is a problem, because working longer hours, or never feeling like you’re actually away from your job, can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.
In a study of 749 women, researchers found that those who took vacation less than once every six years were eight times more likely to develop heart problems compared to those who went on vacation twice a year.
To create a more sustainable, healthy workplace for employees, it’s important to not only regularly take vacation time, but also to fully understand the benefits and encourage your team (and yourself) to plan time off.
Whether your employees spend their breaks lounging on the beach, hiking up a mountain, or even doing a relaxing staycation, taking time off benefits their mind, body, and soul.
Mental Health Benefits
When you're overwhelmed with work, you may feel like you're stuck in a mental fog and have difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and impaired problem-solving, among several other cognitive effects. Taking a vacation provides greater opportunity for rest and better sleep, which can help de-clutter your mind.
Vacations can also improve our mental health by reducing depression and anxiety. They can improve mood and reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with stress and anxiety.
Studies also show taking time off from work can actually make you more productive. A study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that those who were required to take time off were significantly more productive than those who spent more time working. When you're more productive, you're happier, and when you're happier, you're a better employee.
Everyday work pressures can result in elevated stress hormone levels, and an increase in these hormones can suppress your immune system. However, relaxing on vacation can reduce these levels and allow your immune system to recover, making you less prone to get sick.
But if stress hormones stay chronically elevated due to lack of rest, you will be more susceptible to not only colds or the flu, but also vulnerable to more serious illnesses like heart disease.
A Framingham Heart Study found that vacations actually reduce the risk of heart disease. The study tracked subjects over a nine-year period and found a positive correlation between more frequent vacations and longer, healthier lives. Men who didn't take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks.
Taking a vacation can also impact us more profoundly on a deeper, spiritual level. Our soul is who we are at our core — before our families, loved ones, careers, and societal messages about who we should be. When you step away from work and take time to unplug on a vacation, you can tune out a lot of this external noise and shift the focus on yourself.
Often, people on vacation start to ask some of life's big questions — “What do I really want?” or “What’s most important to me?” These questions usually come to us when we have more space and some stillness. It gives us a chance to tap into our most authentic selves. And when we bring our authentic selves back to the workplace, we are more likely to focus more on the work that has the most meaning to us, which can open up career development opportunities.
The bottom line is that employees will benefit mentally, physically, and spiritually from taking a vacation, no matter how big or small. But employers will benefit, too.
Making sure your team regularly takes time off is the key to creating a workplace with healthier, happier, productive employees. So what are you waiting for? Book those tickets and start planning that trip for 2024.
At OnSite Wellness, health and wellness is our specialty. Incorporating a wellness program at your workplace can have massive benefits for your employees in managing their health. Contact us to learn more!