So when’s the last time you took a vacation? And if you did, how many times a day did you check your email… just in case? We live in a hustle culture, where being a workaholic is a badge of honour and anything short of a 60-hour week can be perceived as “not wanting it enough”. But to what end?
A recent report found that only one in five Canadians uses their full vacation days. Is this behaviour making us more productive, more successful or even happier? The answer is a resounding no. You could be damaging your career by not taking time off.
Several studies have concluded that performance decreases when we skip vacation and that taking time to recharge improves productivity, lowers stress, and boosts overall mental health. Other research also shows that those who took more than 10 days of vacation are 30% more likely to get a raise. Really!
The reasons for putting off a vacation are many. We worry about losing momentum or that others won’t be able to deliver in the same way we do. There’s also the dread of having to “clean up the mess” once we get back. Deep down, we know that vacation is all about resting our bodies and minds. Nobody wants to burn out. But you can reconcile your ambitions with time off by seeing vacation as an investment in your creativity, career success and overall motivation.
Many of us have trouble “doing nothing”, because our hustle culture has also taught us that “I am productive, therefore I am.” Even there, our inner narrative is not borne out by reality. As one researcher stated, “Giving your brain time to wander can help it make connections and generate ideas that it can’t make when it’s occupied.”
In addition to helping you be more creative, vacation impacts how motivated and engaged you are at work. One recent study found that if you plan your trip ahead of time and truly disconnect from work, “94% of vacations have a good ROI in terms of your energy and outlook upon returning to work.”
So how to get into that sweet spot? Before you open that booking app, here are some tips:
Get a change of scenery–preferably in nature. As we learned during the pandemic shut-downs, staring at the same four walls did not contribute to our mental health. Changing scenery, whether in a new country or in a different neighbourhood, will help your body and mind rest and reset.
Unplug, for real. One 2017 study found that two-thirds of Americans work while on vacation. How can your brain get that much-needed downtime if you’re still feeling attacked by notification bubbles? Leave the laptop at home. If you carry your phone, deactivate notifications for work apps or uninstall them while you’re away to avoid temptation entirely.
Don’t just do it for the ‘gram. If you’re spending your days trying to create the perfect social media snap, you’re still chasing productivity and perfection, rather than resting. Also, no one is requiring you to take a wine tour of France. If your ideal vacation is booking a hotel in town and wearing a bathrobe all day, then do what makes you happy!
If you’re still feeling hesitant, remember that by not taking a vacation, you are giving away your labour for free. You don’t want that and if your employer is a supportive one, they don’t want that either. Take that vacation. You earned it!