• Jon Saft

VFH: Vacation from Home

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Most of us have not been farther than 20 minutes from our home since March, and as we watch Covid case numbers spike around the world, no one is quite sure when the quarantine will end. Personally, I am sitting on three free flight vouchers from the "before time," sad reminders of canceled bachelor parties and vacations.

But as this pandemic drags on, and its toll on our mental health grows, it becomes all the more important that we remember to take full advantage of our employers' vacation policies, even if we can't actually go anywhere.

America missed on this one

Vacation isn't just about Instagrams from the beach. It's about giving yourself, and your brain, a chance to shut down completely. Unfortunately, the Unites States has a warped view of vacation - of the 37 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we are the only one that does not mandate paid vacation.

According to Travel + Leisure, 36% of Americans took their last vacation over two years ago, and 51% have not vacationed in more than a year. These employees are often leaving PTO on the table, and when they do take some time for themselves, more often than not it tends to be just 4 days.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is laughing at us. Last year, I took a 4 week "sabbatical" and traveled across Colombia and Ecuador. Conversing with European travelers at a hostel in Colombia, they were shocked when I told them my company had labeled my trip as a sabbatical. "4 weeks?" they asked. "Oh, you mean a vacation."

Cynics out there will say there's no way to run a productive economy with everyone taking month-long vacations, but the science does reinforce the need for prolonged, continuous vacation time. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, research consistently shows the health benefits of taking vacation time, like improved productivity, lower stress, and better mental health.

How to do vacation right

For those of you who do recognize the importance of taking time off, or who work for companies with generous vacation policies, don't forget to take full advantage.

8 day rule

A day off here and there is not a vacation. Stretching a 3 day weekend into a 4 day weekend is not a vacation. Recent studies have shown that feelings of happiness and relaxing will peak around the 8th day of a vacation. To fully recharge the batteries, research has determined that vacations of 11 to 15 days are actually ideal for putting workers in the optimal emotional and physical health to return to work.

Good vibrations only

Turning off all notifications can be very difficult, but if we want to reach that peak happiness level on the 8th day of our vacation, it needs to be a true vacation. No check-ins or quick peaks into Slack. Delete the apps from your phone, turn off WiFi whenever you can. Unless you work for NASA or are a hostage negotiator, I promise you, the team will be able to figure it out, or wait for your triumphant return.

You deserve it

We often don't like to take vacation days or shut off completely because we feel guilty about leaving our teammates with our work. But when that feeling of guilt comes over you and you reach to check your email, just remember: you deserve it.

In 2017, Americans left 658 million vacation days unused. That's 658,000,000. If we asked you whether you would do your job for free, what would you say? Well, when you don't take advantage of all of your PTO, you are effectively volunteering to work for free.

It will make you money

Not only is it better for your mental health to take advantage of your PTO, it will be better for your wallet, also. Remember that scene in The Office when Dwight tries to get a promotion by proving he had never missed a day of work? And then (spoiler alert), he doesn't get it? That's actually how things tend to work in real life.

From 2014-2017, people who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time. People who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus.

So do yourself a favor: talk to your manager today and schedule some time off! Even if you're not going to any beaches or resorts, the staycation mental health boost is just as important as the Instagram story.

#vacation #staycation #mental_health

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