Commentary: Take A Vacation Already

Stop forfeiting off days and watch your productivity improve.

Last December, I promised myself it would never happen again. I wouldn’t end another year with unused vacation days – all because I couldn’t get away from the office.

So in 2016, I’ve done some things differently. Usually, I’d wait until late summer to take a weeklong vacation. This year, though, I took time off in May. My family and I went to Memphis, where we ate barbecue at The Commissary, fried chicken at Gus’ and (to work off the calories) took a bunch of daytrips. My favorite spot (sorry, Graceland) was the Memphis Zoo, where we got within a couple feet of a magnificent giraffe named Kenzie – who at one-week old was five feet tall.

I felt like a kid again watching monkeys glide across trees, panda bears snack on bamboo and hippos hide under water. I had a thought: we live in Philadelphia (where there’s a perfectly good zoo), yet it took us going on vacation three states away to actually have such a fun experience.

If you hesitate to take vacation – as I’ve always done – you’re actually like many people. A 2014 AMEX study showed the average American forfeits five PTO days each year. That equates to more than $52 billion in annual lost benefits. Stop doing this to yourself!

Here are three (of many) reasons why you should get away this summer:

1-Your job performance will improve: An Ernst & Young study found that for every additional 10 hours that an employee took for vacation, his or her performance review scores were 8% higher the next year. Why? All of us need mental breaks to boost our creativity and concentration. After a vacation, our minds are simply more capable. By the way, while we’re on this topic, quit worrying that you’ll be passed over for a promotion because you took time off. If your performance is mediocre because you’re drained, the promotion is going to someone else anyway.

2-You’ll be healthier: A SUNY Oswego study showed that men who go on vacation every year reduce their overall risk of death by 20%. This is serious stuff. Slogging through work, especially if you’re under stress, can lead to a worn down body and even chronic illness. Conversely, a Psychosomatic Medicine study found that people who engage in leisure activities tend to have lower blood pressure and reduced stress.

3-Your relationships will be better: Women who take vacations are less likely to be depressed and more likely to be happier in their marriages, according to a Wisconsin Medical Journal study. When you’re beaten down from the same daily work routine, you come home unhappy. You complain, you’re more irritable and you don’t see the good in others. Soon, your spouse and your kids are miserable, too. Who can live this way?

Again, these are just a few studies – countless others highlight additional vacation benefits. So what are you waiting for? Get packing. I’ll see you at the beach.