The US is the only developed country that doesn’t require employers to give workers an annual allotment of paid time off. That leaves 23% of Americans without paid holidays and 22% without paid holidays. Even those who do have paid leave don’t use it all and, when they do, many fail to leave their work behind. Others take time off but stay home because they can’t afford to go on vacation.
Yet, research shows that there are many benefits to taking time off from work. Aside from boosting physical health, going on a break can do wonders for an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. Learning how vacation time benefits them psychologically may convince more American workers to take time off so they can reap the benefits.
Many people associate the office or their place of work with high-stress situations, annoying co-workers, and traffic. Others experience workplace anxiety over how their managers and colleagues might perceive them and whether they might lose their job. Either scenario can cause stress and dissatisfaction, which is why it’s so important to take a break.
By removing themselves from that fast-paced office environment and going someplace different, employees can reduce their stress levels and heal work anxiety. They’ll also regain a sense of control by choosing their surroundings. Even if they go somewhere they’ve never been, simply being in a place of their choosing can boost their confidence, autonomy, and mental well-being.
Whether the individual stays home or goes on a retreat, taking a holiday can support a person’s mental and physical recovery. As long as they choose a peaceful environment to spend their free time in, the break should allow them time to decompress and take a breather.
In addition to providing a mental reset, taking a break can also alleviate job-related pain. For instance, sitting in an office chair all day can cause stiffness and tension in the hips, neck, back, and shoulders, and stress can make it worse. Taking a vacation or even shorter breaks throughout the workday can minimize pain and even reduce employees’ chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
It sounds counterintuitive, but taking time off work can actually boost productivity. How? Taking a vacation lets employees break free from the same problems and decision-making scenarios they face every day at work. In the absence of deadlines and meetings, individuals finally have the chance to sharpen some of their other skills, like creative thinking. That way, they re-enter work with fresh ideas.
Of course, how they choose to spend their time off is a determining factor in how much more creative and productive a person is after vacation. However, if they have positive, relaxing experiences, employees are more likely to report expending less effort to complete everyday job responsibilities upon their return.
Work-life balance is a buzzword phrase these days. Yet, many people struggle to achieve this rather elusive equilibrium. After all, personal and professional responsibilities often overlap, especially now that so many people are working from home.
Luckily, taking a vacation or even a short break can promote a healthy balance, which can ultimately benefit their mental health. During their time off, many people rekindle relationships, discover other passions, and improve their overall life satisfaction. Essentially, having time to themselves reminds them who they are and gives them a sense of purpose, even if they aren’t especially fond of their job.
Reprioritising mental health
There’s been an increased effort to discuss and normalise mental health issues in recent years. However, few people fully understand how time off benefits their mental health. Consequently, many companies fail to prioritise employees’ mental and emotional well-being. Until employers offer paid time off and employees actually take advantage of it, Americans will struggle to reprioritise mental health on a national level.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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