(can also be viewed with graphics at https://isolatorfitness.com/blog/)

Do you feel overworked, tired, unfocused, burned out, stressed, overwhelmed, defeated, strained, and depressed? Maybe you just need to take a break and recharge your batteries.

Unfortunately, if you live in America, the chance of you actually getting to take a break and refocus your attention is much smaller than that of any other country. According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work hundreds of hours per year more than other industrialized nations (137 more hours than Japanese workers, 260 more hours than British workers, and 499 hours more than French workers).

You’d think then, that Americans would be afforded more benefits and paid time off than other countries to balance out the inequality, but that just isn’t the case. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have legally mandated annual leave, which often leads to employers offering very few, if any vacation days for their employees.

(Chart of paid time off by country)

Don’t worry though; it gets worse.

America is also the only developed country that does not have a law requiring employers to provide paid sick days. That’s not even vacation time, that’s just time to sit on a couch miserably, trying to let your body take a break and heal from whatever illness has infected your system. Since over 45 million Americans straddle the poverty line, more often than not they choose to go to work sick, rather than taking an unpaid day to get better. This infects more people and causes millions of days of productivity to be lost every year. The flu alone has an economic impact of $87.1 billion each year due to the productivity loss that is caused by people going to work while sick.

But why is any of this important? Because it’s incredibly unhealthy to not take a break. Human beings need down time to de-stress and relax. It is vital to their physical, psychological, and emotional health. It is also important for the health of a company to allow their employees to take a break.

It has been proven by Mark Rosekind, a researcher at Alertness Solution, that a vacation can actually increase the performance of workers by 80% and their reaction times by 40%, yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics only 77% of privately owned companies even offer paid time off to their employees. Of those that do, the average paid time off offered is a mere 10-14 days per year, which is the lowest amount mandatorily offered by any other industrialized country.

Humans need vacations and Americans want vacation. According to the US Travel Association, 28% of Americans are afraid that if they take their allotted vacation time they will be seen as slackers and their dedication to their company of employment will be questioned. In a self poll by gallup 48% of Americans identified themselves as working (or lower) class - a class that was once reserved for blue-collar workers with low levels of education. These are people making less than $32,500 per year despite their degrees, often with no paid vacation or sick leave. As noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the income required for a single worker to have a chance at economic security (not prosperity) is a whomping $30,000 minimum.

Because of the wage inequality gap shown by the Economic Policy Institute, people are working harder, for more hours and less vacation time to significantly increase productivity without being properly compensated for their efforts. Since 1973, productivity has raised 80.4% while the growth in compensation has increased by only 10.7%. This shows that the majority of the business’ money is going towards the owners and the lenders, while a small sliver is divided among the workers.

If individuals and companies continue on this path there is a serious risk of burnout and self destruction. Take a look at just how beneficial a little time off would be for ourselves, our families, and even the companies for whom we work. When we fail to prioritize a healthy balance in our lives, it not only affects our personal lives, but our professional lives as well.

First let’s take look at the benefits that you will reap for yourself. Not just in your personal life, but more specifically within the core of who you are as an individual. Vacations are not perks, and we must start shifting our perspective away from that dangerous way of thinking, in order to regain our sense of self-worth. When you skip out on vacations you are essentially working for free and lowering your value; when you take your well deserved vacation however you are presenting to the world that you know your importance, and deserve time for yourself. Vacations and time off are necessary to our health, so leave your work at work and set off on an adventure to take advantage of some of these amazing perks.

Benefits Of Self
Decreased stress
Gain self confidence
Increase self reflection
Better sleep
Better lifestyle habits (exercise/eating right/socialization)
More productive
Healthier heart - lessen the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks
Better outlook on life
Less likely to overindulge (alcohol/unhealthy foods/risky behavior)
Lowered stress allows body and mind to heal in ways it cannot under pressure
More motivation
Adequate rest

Not only will you personally benefit from taking a vacation, but so will your family. All too often during the average week is your family put on the back burner to simmer while you finish up on a work project, or take an hour out for yourself to exercise or relax. On vacation the amount of quality time spent with your family more than doubles from the quality time you spend together at home. Pack your bags and get going to reap these rewards and more.

Benefit Of Family

More time together
Closer bonds
Relationships are enriched
Learn more about each other
Children feel love, support and safety
Expand kid’s perspective of the world
The family that plays together, stays together
Make memories / experiences they will never forget
Kids won’t be kids forever
Increased quality time

If those reasons aren’t enough for you we have even more benefits to taking a vacation that might just do the trick to convince you that not only is it okay to take a break, but it should be required. If you’re like most Americans you never fully unplug from work, even when you’re on vacation for fear of an insurmountable amount of work piling up for you back home, but it’s been proven that taking advantage of vacation time is the best way to increase productivity and performance on the job. If that’s not reason enough to leaving it all behind consider the fact that, that’s exactly what you need to do in order to obtain the following career and work-life benefits.

Benefit Of Company

Increase productivity
Increase performance
Cultivate happier work environment
Relieve stress
Reduce the likelihood of burnout
Foster creative thinking
Make less mistakes
Focus better
Gain a new perspective
Reset your mind and Increase your mental power
Enhance motivation
Save company money
Heighten Energy Levels

It’s time for Americans to take back their lives, and start valuing vacation. As John de Graff, the national coordinator for a group dedicated to researching the effects of the overworked Take Back Your Time, has tried to remind us, “There is simply no evidence that working people to death gives you a competitive advantage.” And in fact, as we’ve noted throughout this article it could provide a significant disadvantage to both the personal growth of self and the financial growth of a company. Employees should not only be offered the chance to take a break, but should also be encouraged to do so. Of the World’s Economic Forum the United States came in third of the most competitive economies, but Switzerland (a country that offers a mandatory four week vacation package) came in first, proving once and for all that time spend on the clock does not equate to economic success.

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Author's Bio: 

Lexi Cahill is a Penn State University graduate with a degree in Mass Communications & Media Studies. She is a humanitarian who is enthusiastic about giving back to her local and global community through both monetary donations and community service. She has sponsored a child from Ethiopia through Compassion and volunteered locally at both the Lititz Community Recreational Center (where she was a summer camp counselor for children), and the Lititz Moravian Manor (where she provided companionship to the Alzheimer's patients). Her dedication to helping improve the lives of others is what drives her. She has turned her passions for writing and humanity into a career with Isolator Fitness where she shares her knowledge of nutrition, fitness, and general health through articles published on their website. All of Lexi’s articles can also be viewed at the blog (https://isolatorfitness.com/blog/)