It’s that time of year again: everyone is gearing up for the holiday season and deciding what days to take off. But as things slow down at work, you might be doubting the importance of taking time off and what value it actually brings. You may think that it’s better to work through the holidays to get work done or show your boss that you’re dedicated, but in reality, it’s best to truly take advantage of those days off.
And it’s not just about days off - consider those lunch or coffee breaks as valuable time, in addition to vacations or holidays. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: taking time off, in any form, actually improves your performance, in addition to providing personal benefits. Don’t believe us? Don’t worry, we can back it up.
Benefits of Taking Time Off
Workers who take time off perform better and here’s why:
Mental reset: this is a no-brainer: you need to have time away from work to spark creativity and produce quality results. If your brain can’t rest and you’re continuously pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion, your work will reflect that.
Better productivity: staring at the same screen for hours or days will create a fog that you can’t look past. Did you know that working without breaks can suppress our passion for what we’re doing and negatively impact future progress?
Better balance: You should work to live, not live to work. And achieving a positive work-life balance can seem impossible, but it’s totally achievable if you set clear boundaries with your job.
Improved focus: Is it taking you longer than usual to complete a mundane task? You might be lacking focus, which is directly related to trouble completing tasks. Take a walk around the block, grab a coffee, or call your partner. Then see if your focus has improved.
Better relationships: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” - we’ve all heard this proverb and it’s quite true. Your work shouldn’t be the main focus in your life; your main focus should be your relationships, hobbies, and overall happiness.
Reasons Why People Don’t Take Time Off
But vacations sound amazing and everyone uses all their days off, right? Actually, no. In 2019, the U.S. Travel Association found that 55% of workers didn’t use all the paid time off they had available to them! And in 2017, 50% of Americans took less than five days off a year. Sounds crazy, we know. But here’s why:
Many fear that their workload is too heavy and no one else at the company can do their job or that while gone, they’ll miss too many important meetings; this results with them not taking vacation days to avoid falling behind.
Others can’t afford a vacation and think: well, then what’s the point?
Those that can afford a vacation know they’ll be checking their email constantly on vacation, so it’s not even worth it.
Some in leadership positions fear that the team will be lost without them if they go on vacation.
Many think that management will see taking vacation, especially all of it, as a negative thing and it will reflect poorly on them.
And while we can understand these concerns, here’s an interesting piece of information to consider: 82% of bosses surveyed in 2018 agreed that vacations improve employee focus and productivity.
Types of Time Off
As we mentioned before, time off doesn’t only include elaborate and fancy vacations. In fact, short breaks improve productivity and are also extremely beneficial. Here’s the three main types of time off and their individual importance:
Extended vacation time
This seems like an easy one, but due to the reasons listed above, extended time off is frequently ignored. Do you struggle to create strict boundaries between your work and personal life? If so, taking a longer vacation of one to two weeks could be the answer. And even if you can’t afford to jet off to the other side of the world, no worries. Any sort of prolonged break from work can improve productivity, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and improve overall life satisfaction.
And enjoy your vacation! Studies show that those that stay glued to their email during vacations experience worse health and wellness when they’re back in the office.
Mid-week days off
Do you have a hard time focusing on Monday mornings, or maybe Wednesdays when the week seems endless? We get it. Random days off in the middle of the week or on a Monday or Friday to extend your weekend can help you take a breath, step away, and return to the office recharged.
Are you low on vacation days but wishing to improve your productivity? Short breaks are incredibly effective for practically any day of the week and should be used; it’s not ideal, but it’s true: you can’t focus the entire day. If you see your productivity slipping, take a 10-minute coffee break or take your lunch break a little earlier than usual. A quick, 10-minute walk around the block can help you clear your mind and get back to work.
How to Ask for Time Off
Lots of people are reluctant to ask for time off because they believe it will have a negative effect on the way their boss sees them. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! Here’s what to do:
Review your company’s policy: certain companies have specific rules on the number of days that you can take off at once or even the way to ask for the time off. Make sure you’re within the company’s rules before you ask.
Choose your time carefully: try to take time off during a time when you know that you’ll have a lighter workload or other colleagues aren’t away as well. Of course, this won’t always be possible, but it can help your request be accepted.
Request the time off in writing: follow your company’s policy and make sure your request is in writing so that there are no issues later on. Then, make sure you prepare everything you can to ensure that there are no problems while you’re gone - and that you can enjoy your time off!
Prepare your time off
In order to ensure you make the most of your time off, make sure you do the following:
Set an out-of-the-office email with the following information:
Length of your vacation
When you’ll be back
Who to contact in case of an emergency
Communicate clearly with co-workers in advance: don’t leave your co-workers in the dark; plan your vacation days in advance so that there are no surprises and, more importantly, no need to contact you while away!
Set boundaries: try turning email notifications off on your phone and if you work from home, put away your work computer and materials so you’re not tempted to sneak a peek at your email.
Alright, did we convince you? Taking time off, in any of its forms, is absolutely crucial for your wellbeing and productivity. So start planning your next break today!