Vacations an important part of every job

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

By law, workers in Finland are entitled to up to 38 paid days off, and places like Austria, Venezuela, Panama, Oman and Libya require 30.

Tiny Andorra requires employers to pay for 44 holidays, Cambodia 47, Colombia, Croatia and Cuba 33, Denmark 34 and Djibouti 35.

The United States, meanwhile, requires no paid vacation or paid holidays, but most employers offer paid vacation days as part of the compensation and benefits package. Most employees earn between six and 20 vacation days and get paid time off for public holidays. On average, private employers offer 10 days vacation after a year of service, 14 days after five years, 17 after 10 years and 19 days after 20 years.

Sure, there's no law requiring people to get vacations, but U.S. workers don't have it that bad, right?

Well, in practice, 40 percent of us didn't take a single vacation day in 2015, according to a recent Skift survey.

Conducted among 2,000 people last week, the survey found 40.5 percent did not take a single vacation day, 17 percent said they took less than five vacation days, 14-15 percent said they took between 5 and 20 vacation days.

At the other extreme, 13 percent said they took more than 20 vacation days.

Workers 18-35 reported being the most overworked, and Americans living in rural areas were the largest group taking no vacations, and women took slightly less time off than men.

Why not?

According to The Creative Group, a lot of us worry work will pile up while we're away, or that we may need to use time away from the office for a family emergency or some other foreseeable event. About 40 percent of employees, in another poll by Robert Half International, said they were saving their vacation time for a purpose other than unwinding.

But some of the same pollsters found that 40 percent of executives think employees would be more productive if they took more vacations, but 72 percent of those same senior managers said they wouldn't use any more vacation than they already do, even if their companies offered unlimited vacation.

Why are vacations important?

Better health, for one thing. For both men and women, taking a vacation every two years compared to every six will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, according to the Framingham Heart Study as reported to the New York Times.

You'll be more productive, for another thing. After you get back from vacation, you'll do a better job on the work you have to make up. Humans are wired to pulse between spending and recovering energy, rather than expending energy continuously, according to the Times.

You'll reinforce relationships with your family, according to psychology expert Susan Krauss Whitbourne. "Though family vacations can have their own share of stress, the benefits outweigh the risks, even in families that are not particularly close," she said.

You'll gain new perspectives when you have a chance to step away from the problems and stresses you're facing.

Increased mental power is another result. Your brain needs rest just like the rest of your body. Taking a break from thinking about the same tasks all the time rebuilds your mental reserves.

You also reduce your chance of burnout and improve your mental health, according to reports from about.com and U.S. News and World Report.

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