Why You Shouldn’t Work Through Your Vacation, As Explained By Gifs

If you take a vacation and don’t stop working, did your vacation ever really happen? 

That’s the question you need to ask yourself next time you #TakeADay, but allow vacation guilt to take the wheel and start driving you to work. We get it—it’s hard to disconnect, it’s hard to leave the office behind. Vacation guilt is the sum of several complex and often emotionally charged concerns. For 30 percent of American workers, the reason for not taking time off is because they feel like no one else can do the job. For another 22 percent, it’s because they want to show complete dedication; while nearly a fifth admit that they’re afraid of being seen as replaceable.

But if not taking your vacation days makes you a work martyr, then working through your vacation has to be the point at which work martyrdom reaches critical mass.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we took nearly a full week more of vacation as a country. Sure, life was different then—cell phones were the size of bricks (hey Zach Morris) and people were still skeptical of that thing called email. We now know that the rise in internet adoption and increasing connectivity are directly correlated to our declining use of vacation days. But the American workplace has benefitted greatly from technology. Tech isn’t the enemy, and we don’t think you have to go completely off the grid on your next vacation. But we do think there are lessons to be learned from our attitudes and vacation culture of yesteryear.

So let’s make like a VCR, rewind a little, and let some totally rad ‘90s gifs give you three reasons not to work over your next vacation.  

It (quite literally) does not pay.

We forfeited 206 million vacation days in 2016. Those days weren’t rolled over, paid out, or banked for any benefit. They were just plain lost. In simoleons, that equates to $66.4 billion in forfeited benefits. We’re effectively volunteering hundreds of millions of days of free work for our employers by not taking them.

So when you take your paid time off, but continue to work, you’re essentially doing this:

You (played here by Elaine Benes) are paying back your employer (played here by Jerry Seinfeld) by working on the vacation days that your employer agreed to pay you not to work. That’s Kramer-level crazy.

Not only are you essentially working doubletime for the same pay, but when you don’t take time off, you may be forgoing a bonus or pay raise without even realizing it. Employees who take 10 or less days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more.

You’re missing out on all the benefits of time off. 

Numerous studies have shown that time off is not only good for your health, but also makes you happier. 

In addition to lower risk for heart disease and heart attacks, time off has been linked to decreased depression. A study conducted by Marshfield Clinic of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. University of Pittsburgh's Mind Body Center also found that leisure activities, such as taking vacations, led to higher positive emotional levels and less depression in participants.

In short, can you really expect to reduce stress and burnout on vacation if you’re not actually getting in any downtime?

What’s more, your relationships benefit from time off, both directly (e.g., spending time with loved ones on vacation) and indirectly (e.g., being a better, more pleasant human to be around after taking some time to relax and recharge).

More than 80 percent agree that people who fail to use time off lose out on quality time with their significant other, their children, and themselves. But a third of couples argue about the time needed for work versus the amount of quality time needed to spend together.

The simple solution? Plan to spend some QT with friends and family. #ThankYouForBeingAFriend, Vacation.

You’re setting unhealthy expectations for your fellow colleagues.

There’s a culture of silence in the workplace around taking time off, with nearly two-thirds of workers reporting that they hear nothing, mixed messages, or discouraging messages about taking time off. Even when they do leave the office, a quarter of Americans are unsure or think that their company expects them to work while on vacation.

So we’ve filled the silence with self-imposed pressure and workaholic behavior. Thirty-one percent of employees say they put “a lot” or “some” pressure on themselves to check in with work when they’re on vacation.

We have to cut ourselves a break, relax, and recharge. Turns out a workcation is no vacation afterall.

Note: The data and statistics referenced in this post have been updated since we originally published this post. Learn more about the State of American Vacation 2017.

June 23, 2016