Most of us live incredibly cluttered and fast-paced lives, driven by the need to be productive, accomplished, and forever moving forward. What would happen, though, if we decided to take a time-out? Many of us get anxiety just thinking about it – the prospect of falling behind, slowing down, or even failing. However, taking a break might, in actuality, help you to come back stronger and sharper than ever before. Alan Cohen once said “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” Most of us can accept the wisdom in these words, but are we brave enough to put them into practice?
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Even those of us who do take vacations nearly always fail to completely disconnect from our work lives. We bring our cell phones and laptops in our carry-on bags, answer work emails, and arrange our schedules from afar. This has become not only the norm, but, in many industries, a fairly standard expectation. According to a study by consulting firm Randstad, 42% of employees reported feeling obligated to check their email during vacation, while 26% feel guilty even using all of their vacation time. These numbers become even more disheartening when broken down by age group. Forty percent of millennial employees reported feeling guilty about using their vacation time, compared to 18% of baby boomers – suggesting that this is a growing workplace mentality, rather than a fading one.
It is no surprise, then, that stress and employee burnout are major concerns in today’s workforce. A recent survey of IT administrators by Opinion Matters revealed that 72% of respondents were stressed, 67% considered switching careers, 85% said their job intruded on their personal life, and 42% lost sleep over work. While this study was specific to one job title, its findings seem to represent an atmosphere prevalent through much of America in these uncertain economic times. “The business climate has become so fiery and competitive that leaders are focused on competition and getting the most out of their people. Everyone’s working to their max,” explains John Izzo, author of Values-Shift: The New Work Ethic and What It Means for Business.
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Although a completely off-the-grid vacation sounds like the obvious solution to employee burnout, it is rarely an option for today’s worker. However, if we make it a priority, most Americans are capable of finding a thirty minute stretch of time during the day in which we can totally disengage from the world around us. Block it off on your calendar, or schedule it for a time when you are not on the clock. Turn off the TV, your phone, and any screen through which your work life and its accompanying stresses can access you. You don’t have to sit in silence or meditate when you do this – just do whatever you find relaxing. I often choose a hot bubble bath, while my husband opts for a long run. Anything works if it clears your mind and relaxes your soul. You need it, you’ve earned it, and it will ultimately make you a better worker.