After months of slogging, we anxiously await the moment we can leave work behind and finally make the most of our time away from office-bound responsibilities. In other words, time to vacation hard!

So why do we engage in the irony of needing a vacation after coming back from vacation? The reasons are myriad, but primarily:

  • You find it difficult to actually enjoy your time off, especially if “no one else” can do your job, so you don’t 100% switch off.
  • You worked extra hard for that vacation time and you know how hard you’ll have to work when you get back.

What’s interesting is that this type of circular anxiety is a particularly American construct. We really are “always on” and don’t think about the subtle mental and emotional repercussions that come from not being able to switch off. They begin compounding and then, without thinking, the time we set aside to truly extract ourselves from work mode has passed.

An actual study has been conducted by GfK on the state of American vacation time and its relationship to work culture.

The 7,331 subjects of the study were all in managerial or decision-making positions, and the dreaded return to The Mountain of Work was among the top reasons for not taking time off at all. In fact, the most staggering finding regarded vacation days not being used.

Unused vacation days cost the U.S. economy $236 billion in 2016, due to lost spending. That spending would have supported 1.8 million American jobs and generated $70 billion in additional income for American workers.

The good news is we are taking more vacation days overall. We just need to change our approach to them. And there are ways to fully immerse yourself in the restorative powers of time off, such as:

OOO

“Out of office” should mean exactly that. Prioritize what absolutely needs to be completed before you leave, and inform appropriate staff where you left off on whichever projects. Maybe even assign them smaller related tasks so you’re all on the same page upon your return. Communicate whatever goals they can help you meet while you’re offline.

NO PHONES

Just because we can all be reached 24 hours a day doesn’t mean we need to be. If your phone is absolutely integral to the survival of your business, then schedule a block of work time and do not work outside of that block. This is your “Me” time. Use it to learn a little something about personal growth, self-improvement, and being present.

DECOMPRESS

Always arrive home from your holiday at least two days before you return to work. There’s a slimmer chance you’ll put pressure on yourself to hit the ground running and ultimately become overwhelmed or burnt out. When you do return to work, ease yourself back into the grind. Let everyone know, yourself especially, where you are in that transition.