Back in January 2019, I wrote a blog post about the importance of vacation. Project Time Off had just released a study called the “State of the American Vacation 2018,” which told us that more Americans than ever were taking their vacation days.
That’s great news — but we also learned that even though record numbers of people were finally taking vacation time, 52% of Americans were still not taking any vacation at all. That means that 768 MILLION days of paid vacation went unused in 2018, which equates to roughly $65 BILLION in lost benefits according to a CNN study.
It boggles my mind that so many people would intentionally choose not to rest, recharge, and be with family and friends, especially because we have well-researched data which clearly tells us that vacation time actually increases productivity.
What about Vacation in the Time of COVID-19?
Thinking back on those 2018 numbers, I started wondering: if people avoided taking vacations back when things were “normal,” how much vacation time is being lost now that we’re knee-deep in a pandemic?
It’s not possible to jump on a plane and escape to Europe for a week right now. And many of the plans we may have had for traditional summer vacations were canceled. So what happened? People forgot to take time off because they’re already home all day, and can’t make travel plans. This Chicago Tribune article reports that companies are indicating that employees have taken 25-30% fewer vacation days so far in 2020. This is no surprise. As I write this, COVID numbers in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California are increasing dramatically. And yet… for those of us fortunate enough to have a job in these very challenging times, many of us are working more than ever.
You may have noticed that when you work from home, work is constantly beckoning you to come do “just a little more” (and if you’re currently looking for a position and treating your job hunt as your “job”, it may feel much the same way). Many people are on Zoom calls for 7 to 10 hours a day, and experiencing a new phenomenon called “Zoom fatigue.” Leaders and colleagues are getting more comfortable emailing, calling and texting each other during previously “off-limit” hours because… well, where else do you have to go?
And let’s not forget to factor in that, for many of us, not only are we expected to be available all the time to work, but now that we’re home, our children, pets and spouses may also expect that we’re available 24/7.
This, coupled with a lack of the routine we had all grown so used to, adds up to people becoming burned out, exhausted, and still not taking their vacation time.
Vacation Time Makes Us More Effective
Now more than ever is the time to give yourself a chance to reset. It’s important so you can convey the energy level, engagement, and interest that you need when you’re working remotely, or interviewing for a new job.
Of course, taking time off doesn’t mean booking a trip to Milan; it may mean taking a staycation and shutting down your computer, turning off your phone, and setting work aside, fully, for a period of time. I invite you to use this time as a reset for your brain, your body and your life.
When we are rested, we’re more productive, we make better decisions, we’re more empathetic, we experience joy more often, we build up our immune system… the list goes on.
How to Take a Staycation in 6 Steps
When you do take a staycation, follow these six guidelines to get the most out of the experience.
- Let your brain rest. Our society expects us to be “on” all the time, but our brains simply function better when they are well-rested. Turn off your devices and let yourself be fully present in the “real world” for a bit so your brain can reset.
- Let your body rest. Sitting at a desk for eight or more hours a day wreaks havoc on our neck, shoulders, back and core (my chiropractor calls it “tech neck”). Let your body reset by moving it more; take walks or a new online exercise class, and get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to truly rejuvenate your body.
- Prepare and eat healthy food. One study of 2,000 people in the US found that 76% of Americans gained up to 16 pounds during quarantine. It’s time to reverse that trend. Use your staycation to prepare and stock up on healthy freezer meals that you can pull out and quickly reheat during a busy day.
- Reengage with your personal life. Many people are feeling deeply lonely as they quarantine on their own, while others are feeling cramped in the house with the pets, spouse and kids all day. Find a way to connect with people you love by doing something fun that isn’t a day-to-day activity. For me, going fishing with my son helped us reconnect.
- Meditate. Even five minutes a day of simply breathing and being still can help you let go of the crankiness and irritability that has built up over the past several months. Using an app like Insight Timer or Headspace can be very helpful.
- Go outside. Being in nature is highly restorative. Taking a hike through a forest or swimming in a nearby lake can help you feel grounded and calm. Ideally, your outdoor adventure would be outside your neighborhood, to the extent that you feel safe.
I hope you are compelled to take your vacation time, and make the most of it. If you are interested in reading more, this article in the Scientific American highlights the fact that more hours do not equal greater productivity. And when you have a chance, drop me a note and tell me about your reset. What will you do to rest and rejuvenate? If you’ve already taken your staycation, what did you learn? Click here to reach me directly.