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Help for the Vacation-Deprived

Experts explain why many Americans aren't taking advantage of the vacation time they're entitled to.

Consequences of Having Little Time Off continued...

"There's the managerial problem of retaining good workers and having them loyal to the firm while they're there," says David Maume, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati. He says burnout can also affect employees' productivity, creativity, and effectiveness.

In addition, high levels of stress are likely to be precursors to depression, which can hit both the employer and employee's pocketbook. Weaver places the direct cost of depression to the workplace at $79 billion.

Even people who manage to remain productive at work can have problems. If they're always at work, then they're not with their family and friends. If they're working while on vacation, for the time that they're on the job, they're not really present.

"You can't be in two places at once," says Friedman, who notes how common it is to hear stories about people who don't know their parents very much because they were always working.

Friedman adds that an unbalanced emphasis on work can strain family and social life: "When you come up for air, you may see that you're alone, or that your relationships have gone on without you."

8 Tips for the Vacation-Deprived Worker

Here are recommendations from mental health, travel, and career experts on how to improve your work-vacation balance:

1. Create your own thoughts.

Where in your life did your idea of productivity come from? With this information, you can make choices. "You may find out that your idea of being productive came from an unhappy parent who worked overtime because they were depressed, and if they didn't work overtime, they wouldn't have enough money to support a family," says Bohen. "By figuring out where the message came from, you can decide if it's a reliable source in terms of what you want in your life."

2. Plan your vacation time.

People usually make travel plans in advance but forget to prepare co-workers for their time off. Michael Erwin, a senior career adviser at CareerBuilder.com, suggests letting colleagues know about your upcoming absence so that there are no surprises when you leave. Make sure there are people around who can cover your calls and other responsibilities. Keep people in the loop on what you're working on, and try not to take on projects that will require your presence during vacation.

3. Talk to your boss.

Be honest and straightforward about your need for time away from work, and share how it can benefit the company. You can say something like, "I need downtime so that when I come in here, I can really do a good job and I can really give you my focus," says Friedman.

4. Look at the bigger picture.

Will the office truly fall apart if you're not there? Will you really be fired if you take time off? It is important to have a balance, says Friedman, and to neither underinflate nor overinflate your significance at work. If you're not sure where you stand, sit down with your superior and co-workers, and ask them.

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