On the surface, having more time off might seem like a slacker's dream, a company's nightmare and a country's road to GDP hell. But number of studies have that without these brain breaks, we're more prone to becoming unproductive, unimaginative, short-sighted, narrow-minded and disconnected.
Millennials, especially, should take note and advocate for more time off. People between the ages of 20 and 34 are at higher risk of serious diseases when they don't take breaks, according to a study published in the medical journal Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine. The benefits of time off are extensive. Simply taking four nights of vacation can reduce stress and improve well-being — and these positive effects can be seen up to 45 days later.
Unfortunately, "vacation shame" is common among younger generations. According to a 2017 survey from Allianz Travel Insurance, as many as 25 percent of millennials reported feeling nervous when requesting time, and as a result, were more inclined to leave remaining vacation days unused. Another report found that more the half of millennial employees think they'll impress their bosses by looking like a martyr at work.
If your employer is giving you the side-eye each time you mention taking time off, you might want to start a discussion. Here are the essential points to bring up:
Ask your employer whether you can do an experiment to see whether your goals are more likely to be reached or exceeded with more time off. Agree to a quarterly review, and demonstrate what happens to your productivity as soon as you return.Remind your employer of a Harvard Business Review study that found that leaders from countries that take more vacation days waste less time when they get back to work.
Just because you show up at work doesn't mean you're saving the company money. Many people show up with their bodies, but their minds are either fried or somewhere else. If you think, "At least they're there," think again. Absent-minded presence at work, called "presenteeism," costs American businesses more than $150 billion a year. You don't want to add to that.
Depression costs the U.S. $210 billion a year, and burnout comes at the steep price of up to $190 billion a year. Neither of them is cheap, and taking time off can prevent them. Your mental health includes your productivity, mood, energy, and focus. Vacations recharge all of these factors. If companies gave employees more time off, this would set the stage for a more energized culture and profitable business with engaged, happier employees. So use these three questions to spur your employer in the right direction.
The most common pattern of burnout goes like this: You find the quality of your work slipping, and although you work harder and for longer hours, there is no noticeable shift. You continue to burn the midnight oil and work on weekends, but your physical and mental health is slowly deteriorating.
Ultimately, after some time, you come to the conclusion that you're burned out, and only then will you start to change your life. That's when the magic happens. The downside? It may be too late by then, and your body might have already developed some of the major health risks of burnout.
Srini Pillay, M.D., is the CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and the author of numerous books, including "Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind," and "Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders." He also serves as a part-time assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
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