Well, here's a sobering new statistic that proves we're all ridiculously overworked: Apparently, more than half of Americans haven't taken a vacation in the past year. In fact, apparently 56 percent of the country hasn't taken a vacation in the past 12 months — and even worse, the problem seems to be getting worse: the figure is up from 52 percent the previous year, according to a survey by insurance company Allianz Global Assistance.
The fine print is that the insurance company bizarrely defined a vacation as at least a weeklong trip of at least 100 miles away (vacation time aside, how often can anyone afford to do that annually?), but it echoes other surveys that find Americans leave an average of five days of vacation time unused. In a word: gross. Guys, your vacation time is there for a reason! It is a part of your compensation, just like your health care or salary. Believe me, I know that many companies pressure employees not to use any of their time off (or even, immorally, to take a sick day when they need it), but this is an incredibly toxic practice that deserves pushback. Not only are people better employees after they've had some time off to recharge, but people are better people when they have leisure time.
Need more convincing before working up the nerve to ask your boss? Here are five reasons why you should get out of town:
1. Leisure Keeps You Human
One of my favorite (yet disgustingly named) newsletters, Brain Pickings, featured German philosopher Josef Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture in their most recent issue. I loved what Pieper wrote about leisure as an essential part of humanity:
The simple “break” from work — the kind that lasts an hour, or the kind that lasts a week or longer — is part and parcel of daily working life. It is something that has been built into the whole working process, a part of the schedule. The “break” is there for the sake of work. It is supposed to provide “new strength” for “new work,” as the word “refreshment” indicates: one is refreshed for work through being refreshed from work.
Leisure stands in a perpendicular position with respect to the working process… Leisure is not there for the sake of work, no matter how much new strength the one who resumes working may gain from it; leisure in our sense is not justified by providing bodily renewal or even mental refreshment to lend new vigor to further work… Nobody who wants leisure merely for the sake of “refreshment” will experience its authentic fruit, the deep refreshment that comes from a deep sleep.
[...] Leisure is not justified in making the functionary as “trouble-free” in operation as possible, with minimum “downtime,” but rather in keeping the functionary human … and this means that the human being does not disappear into the parceled-out world of his limited work-a-day function, but instead remains capable of taking in the world as a whole, and thereby to realize himself as a being who is oriented toward the whole of existence.
Forgive the lengthy block quote, but isn't that wonderful? We talk so much about vacations as a way to be better at work that it's easy to forget that vacations also make you a better, smarter, more curious and playful human being "capable of taking in the world as a whole."
2. Vacations Make You Smarter
I don't know about you, but I get a lot more reading done on vacations than in my day-to-day life. Plane rides, beach days, and sleepless nights at hostels create hours of uninterrupted reading time – without time off, I don't know how I would have gotten through doorstop-sized books like Gravity's Rainbow and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (brag brag brag). And reading through books in one sitting is an entirely different experience than reading in fits and starts – you enjoy the story a lot more instead of going, "Wait, who's this guy again?"
It's not just beach reading, though – even imagining travel to other places makes you smarterthrough enabling psychological distance. Somehow, imagining yourself in other places makes you more creative and self-aware.
3. You're Going to Die Someday
Too morbid for you? Well, tough! You're going to be so dead someday! Way more dead than you even realize! And if that should happen tomorrow, or a year from now, or 20 years from now, or 50 years from now – do you want to be the kind of person who has never been to South America just because your mean boss at a job you want to leave really wanted you around 24/7? So many people have places in their minds that they've always wanted to visit and never got to – save up just a little bit of money and this is a regret you can avoid.
4. It's the Only Way to See Your Best Friends from College
Chances are, some of the people you got close to from high school, college, old jobs, or childhood have now moved far away. Sure, you can keep in touch through the Internet or even (gasp) calling them on the phone, but it's not the same thing as actually visiting them. Plus, not only do you get to see the woman who still has the other half of the plastic Best Friends Forever bracelet you got in 4th grade, but you'll probably get a free place to crash during your vacation as well! Score!
5. You'll Have Fun
It's a simple reason, for sure. But so many people – particularly women, unfortunately – tend to put other people's needs before their own. Having fun is a need, and it is important, and it should be reason enough for you. Respect and love yourself enough to take some time off and unplug! Honestly, your boss will survive.