Working late and obsessively checking email may seem like ways to show job commitment. But for those who care about positive work performance, set aside some time and go on vacation! Summer is as good an excuse as any to use up those accruing vacation days.
Surprisingly, the prospect of vacation isn’t exciting for everyone. “One of the reasons people don’t take vacation is they dread feeling overwhelmed when they get back,” says Julie Clow, author of “The Work Revolution: Freedom and Excellence for All” (Wiley, 2012).
But studies show that vacations stave off burnout and reenergize workers, so performance is better upon arrival. The anticipation of that time off will likely kick into gear beforehand, too, eliminating distractions and boosting efficiency.
Vacation is also an opportunity to reconnect with family members who may suffer when work stress comes home from the office.
Still think your schedule or your boss won’t allow you to take a road trip or fly the friendly skies? Fear not! Bosses expect workers to take vacations, especially if it’s part of the benefits package. Not taking one might signal that you underestimate your worth.
Here are some other tips to ensure a positive vacation experience and a happy return:
• Set aside money from each paycheck for a vacation fund. A trip that puts you in debt will only add to your stress.
• Tell your boss and fill out any required paperwork as early as possible. Don’t pull a disappearing act when you know there’s a big project due, but don’t let something like a routine staff meeting prevent you from scheduling a vacation.
Book your flight and hotel early not only for the cheaper rates but also to make it harder for your boss or team to suggest it might be better to postpose your trip because there are fires to put out. (Won’t there always be? And can’t they form a bucket brigade without you?)
• “Negotiate with a team member to cover for you when you’re gone, advises Clow. She adds that peer support also helps ensure you’ll feel less guilty about taking time off.
• Leave your laptop at home, but check your mobile device every so often if it makes you feel better. “No one likes to come home to 300 emails, so if that’s likely to happen, allot a small amount of time to deal with time-sensitive emails and delete the junk,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, author of “The Search for Fulfillment: Revolutionary New Research That Reveals the Secret to Long-Term Happiness,” (Ballantine Books, 2010).
• Build in some down time on vacation for reading or lounging, but also plan physical activities, especially if your job is sedentary, Whitbourne suggests. Tackle something on your bucket list.
• Agree on a flexible itinerary to minimize family friction on vacation. Not everyone wants to spend all day in a modern art museum or a glass-bottom boat.
• But don’t go overboard on planning. An overscheduled vacation can be stressful, and you’ll miss out on exploring and discovering things off the beaten track.
• Wear sunscreen! A bad sunburn on day one can ruin the rest of the trip.
• If you can’t afford a tropical island getaway — or even a quick road trip to see the world’s largest ball of twine — consider a “staycation.”
“You don’t have to go someplace halfway around the world,” says Whitbourne, who’s also a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
• Use the vacation as a catchall for the things you’ve been meaning to do. Catch up on missed episodes of “Swamp People.” Read in the park. Don’t spend all your time off doing chores, but go ahead and repaint the spare room or tinker with your muscle car. Vacation means relaxing, so don’t forget to do just that!
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