From an enjoyment standpoint, we all know vacation is worth it. Most of us can appreciate the pure pleasure of sinking our toes into warm sand or lounging on a comfy hotel bed.
But on its own, the lure of down time doesn't seem enough to convince Americans to take their vacation.
As of 2017, the average worker is only taking 17.2 days of vacation each year. That's more than the 16 days we were taking in 2014, but it's still a measly number when you consider that many people are working more than ever.
And perhaps that's part of the problem: Our work culture has become obsessed with "more"--so many of us are constantly striving to be more productive, to produce more work, to achieve more goals in shorter periods of time.
This line of thinking can blind us to the value inherent in taking time to do less.
Even if you fall into the camp of "more," it's essential to take a vacation on a regular basis. Need some convincing? Here's the productivity-oriented case for actually using your vacation time this summer.
Vacation helps you bounce back from burnout
No matter who you are, your cognitive resources are limited.
Think of these capabilities as a jar full of marbles. Each time you complete a project, make a key decision, manage a sticky relationship with a coworker, and so on, a marble is removed from the jar. At a certain point, you're going to be operating without all of your marbles (pun intended!).
If you don't take time to step away from your desk and refill the jar with a fresh batch of marbles, then very soon you're going to burn out and be unable to perform at your usual level.
Vacation gives you the time and space to replenish your cognitive resources so you can return to work with a full jar of marbles.
Vacation can reduce stress
One of the biggest productivity zappers around is stress. And no one ever reduced their stress by burying themselves under an enormous workload and never coming up for air.
In contrast, research suggests that vacations (when planned right) can reduce stress, increase energy, and contribute to a more positive outlook overall--all of which can enhance productivity. (Increased energy, in particular, is linked with higher engagement at work.) Additionally, minimizing stress decreases the risk of developing illness, thereby limiting absenteeism.
The emphasis here is on "planned right".
The same research cited above found that the most relaxing vacations are ones that are planned well in advance, involve making social connections, are far away from work, and feel safe. These conditions set the stage for stress to melt away.
Vacation lets you catch up on sleep.
Failing to get adequate sleep is a proven productivity killer
Sleep deprivation has been linked with a decreased ability to concentrate, make sound decisions, practice good judgment, and maintain a stable mood. It can also impair your immune system and lead to absentee-inducing illness.
By taking the time to catch up on sleep, you'll help restore your mind and body to their peak capacities so you can continue to function at your best.
Vacation can boost creative thinking
Changing up your normal routine can help shift you into a different mindset, inspire new ways of looking at work-related challenges, and generally boost your capacities for creative thinking.
In fact, research suggests that time spent "doing nothing" (i.e. daydreaming, idling, and generally relaxing) stimulates certain types of waves in the brain that are linked with creative thinking and innovation. One study found that unplugging for four days and hiking in nature inspired a whopping 50 percent jump in creativity.
What about work environment?
Companies are learning the value of letting their employees recharge, either on vacation or throughout the work week. Remote work is at an all-time high, with flexible working hours and perks coming along with it.
Sven Platte, co-founder and CEO of Digistore24, is a big believer in remote work for his company. "Being a company in the digital sector, we were able to make great experiences with supporting remote work and flexible working hours," says Platte. "At first we felt quite uncertain about the results, after all, there's a lot of trust required to take this step. After a few months, however, we actually were able to observe significant increases in productivity, while at the same time our team members seemed more satisfied and happy with their work place."
Even though working conditions are evolving, this doesn't mean you don't need vacation ro recharge. If you're struggling to solve a problem or think innovatively at work, the best solution might be getting out of Dodge.
If none of the other reasons on this list have proved compelling, consider this: Spending less time at work (by going on vacation) means you'll have less time to get work done. And there's nothing like lighting a proverbial fire under your butt to encourage productivity.