You know those headlines for online articles that claim, “SLEEP BETTER, GET A RAISE, AND BE HAPPIER, ALL WITH THIS ONE SIMPLE TRICK”? Yep, this is one of those, but we can actually back up our claims with proof! Okay, are you ready? Here’s the secret:
TAKE A DAY OFF. Seriously. Start with a Friday.
Hiking at Wintergreen Resort
American employees leave a total of 662 million vacation days on the table, which equates to about $66.4 billion in benefits not taken. That’s a big number, but what does that mean for you? If you break that down to a single person, not taking your paid vacation time is basically like paying your boss $604 to come to work. And no one likes their job that much.
Why do all of these paid vacation days in America remain untaken? There are many different reasons; some employees think that no one else can “do what they do”, and fear that taking time off will just mean more work piled up when they return. No matter what the reason, the problem is genuine: Americans have become “Work Martyrs”, choosing to see vacation as a dirty word rather than a healthy and integral part of a successful career.
So how do you solve this problem? If you don’t make the decision ahead of time to leave the office, it probably won’t happen; you are much more likely to take all your time off when you plan your vacations.
You may be thinking that there is no way that getting out of the office for just one Friday will make you a better employee. But before you totally disregard our advice, bear with us and consider the facts regarding the benefits of using your vacation time.
1. Time off keeps you healthy, both physically and mentally.
It seems to be all too common to hear about someone getting “burned out” in their industry, and the level of stress in the workplace is at an all-time high. Where does this problem stem from? Employees no longer unplug from the office when they are on vacation. Today’s workers use Smartphones to stay connected, monitoring and responding to emails everywhere they go. This needs to stop. When you take a vacation, make it a part of your plan to leave behind everything work-related. Logging out completely will reduce stress and allow you to completely relax, letting your body and mind recharge during vacation.
2. Employees that use their paid time off are actually more productive than those who don’t.
Spending every minute in the office leads to a quick burn-out, so while you think you are more productive when you skip the vacations, you’re actually slowly declining in productivity. If you take your time off, you’ll come back more rested and energized, ready to take on the workplace.
3. Vacations improve creativity, leading to better ideas.
Immersing yourself in new experiences gives you more to draw from, providing a new array of ideas to bring back to the workplace. For example, when you step away from work to hit the beach or go on a hike, you’re creating new mental associations from your surrounding environment that lead to creative breakthroughs back at work. These breakthroughs make you a more valuable employee, which will lead to promotions and raises in the future.
4. A relaxed mind can actually solve more difficult problems.
It has been scientifically proven that daydreaming can help you find solutions to difficult problems. When your mind is relaxed, it subconsciously begins to work on problem-solving those essential but boring tasks. So while you might be sipping on a glass of wine and taking in the stunning backdrop of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, your mind is in “daydream” mode, allowing you to make creative connections that you would never put together in your poorly-lit cubicle.
5. Taking paid vacations has been linked to higher performance reviews, which in turn can result in promotions.
As mentioned previously, you come back from vacation more rested and ready to work, which your boss will definitely notice. A study done by Ernst & Young in 2006 found that for each additional 10 hours of paid time off you take, your performance review is 8% higher in the following year. (You’re also less likely to leave and look for a new job due to burn-out).
Summed up: Use those vacations days, people!
You may feel like taking a few days or a whole week out of the office is too long, so to ease you into “vacation mode”, start with asking for just a Friday off work. This is generally the easiest day to take off, as there are less people in the office, fewer meetings, and your workload is winding down for the week. Plus, you just turned your two-day weekend into a three-day vacation while only using one day of paid time off. By taking a Friday rather than an entire week, you’re conserving your vacation days, which lets you spread the rest out periodically over your calendar. Imagine planning six or more mini-vacations throughout the year rather than one week-long getaway annually. Gives you something to look forward to, doesn’t it?
If you’re still feeling a bit nervous about asking for an upcoming Friday off, here is something else to consider: Despite what you think, your boss is probably not actually trying to make your life miserable. In fact, he or she most likely wants you to succeed at being the best employee possible. And a day off here and there achieves that goal, making you more productive and refreshed when you return.
Followed the facts this far? Let’s help you plan that vacation. Social media may have you convinced that everyone you know can afford an exotic, expensive trip to some tropical destination, but you might feel like spending the day at home ordering pizza is about all you can swing. The good news is that Virginia has plenty of options for an approachable, budget-friendly vacation, allowing you to create a memorable experience without going into massive credit card debt. So forget the fluorescent lighting and microwaveable lunches of your workplace for one day; you should be going to a music festival, carving up the slopes at a mountain resort, or enjoying the great outdoors while paddling the Chesapeake Bay (just to name a few Virginia vacation options).
Need a few more suggestions? Stay tuned each month for our Crush Friday blog series, where we will provide you with simple and affordable guides to the different regions of Virginia, or see below for a few broad suggestions for your next Friday out and about!
- Visit a Virginia winery (tastings are usually around $10), where you’ll get to sample some world-class vino without the snobbery that typically goes with great wines.
- Exploring the beaches and Bay shorelines, where you can lie out on the sand soaking up some sun.
- Taste oysters and take a tour to learn about these environmentally sustainable bivalves on the Virginia Oyster Trail, which runs from the Northern Neck to the Eastern Shore. Learn how to shuck your own oyster, discover the eight different Virginia oyster regions and how they are all vastly different from one another.
- Take a hike. The Blue Ridge Mountains offer some of the best hiking on the East Coast, featuring waterfalls, wildlife, and epic views. Plus you can finish your hike with a cold beer at a local brewery.
- Speaking of brewery, Virginia’s Craft breweries are great for inexpensive trips. Many are in brew trails, where you can hit several in a day without traveling too far (Please make sure a designated driver or Ubers are available). Some areas like Charlottesville even have Hop On tours where a bus will take you around to the breweries.