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Health & Balance

Help for the Vacation-Deprived

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

The emphasis on productivity "can be overdone, and can skew people from just being comfortable being with themselves, and being alright without creating a product," says Bohen.

As a result, when they do take a vacation, some people feel restless in the unstructured time and don't know what to do with themselves or others. So they end up checking in with work, because they do not want to lose control of a work project, or they and their boss are so used to them being available all the time. They may also work to avoid facing family issues.

According to a 2006 CareerBuilder.com survey, 33% of men and 25% of women expected to work while on vacation.

Consequences of Having Little Time Off

Vacation is a time for renewal. In work, we are often called to think. Sometimes, it's good to give our brains a rest. Without a break, we may not be able to perform up to our potential. This can be a problem, not only for the employee, but for the employer as well.

"The main benefit of vacation is for the worker to come back energized," says Weaver. "If they haven't had a break, then they're not coming back with new energy. They haven't had a chance to step back and get perspective, and to come back with renewed enthusiasm."

Long working hours without a break, insecurity about one's job, and other work-related issues can lead to burnout and stress. Humans can usually adapt to pressure, but not for a limitless amount of time. At some point, working without a true break can cause problems.

"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.

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