One Solution to Burnout at Work

July 23rd 2016

Tricia Tongco

Are you taking a vacation this summer?

Probably not, considering that Americans are terrible at taking time off from work.

According to a recent NPR poll, "[d]espite most working adults being offered paid vacation days by their workplace, less than half of all workers who receive paid vacation days have used all or most of them in the past year."

And it's not like people don't need vacations – 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job, according to The American Institute of Stress.

You might already be coming up with excuses:

"I can't take off two weeks from work!"

"There's no one else to take on my responsibilites."

"I'll have a huge pile of work to do when I get back."

Those concerns mostly apply to taking a long holiday, but they don't hold up as much when considering shorter vacations.

Thankfully, research has shown that taking a short vacation (four to five days) still has a positive effect on your health and well-being.

“During holidays, health and well-being increase quite rapidly,” often just two days into a vacation, said organizational psychologist Jessica de Bloom in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. (She was a lead researcher in the study on short vacations and their effects on employees.) Additionally, de Bloom and her colleagues have found that the positive effects of a vacation, measured by factors including levels of tension, fatigue, and happiness, fade within a week of returning to work.

While that may seem like a disheartening finding, it actually supports the idea that taking more frequent, shorter vacations might be more beneficial than taking longer ones, considering the short-lived effects. As Dr. de Bloom told WSJ:

“Holidays work more like sleep. You need regular recovery from work in order to stay healthy in the long run.”

Other studies have found that vacations are generally linked to a decrease in heart disease, a reduced risk of depression, improved relationships, and increased productivity and creativity.

Plus, four days is totally manageable. To maximize your vacation days, you could take off a Friday and Monday for a longer weekend getaway. Better yet, tack on an extra day to a three-day weekend like Labor Day or Columbus Day.

To truly maximize your time off, make sure you do your best to unplug from work.

De Bloom's short vacation study also discovered that the more relaxed and psychologically detached from work people felt, "the more time they spent on conversations with the partner, the more pleasure they derived from their vacation activities, and the lower the number of negative incidents during vacation."

With a short trip, you can also still reap the benefit of planning a vacation, which causes the largest boost in happiness related to vacations.

So, no more excuses – it's time for that vacation.

[h/t NPR]