Despite a seemingly endless stream of articles warning of the perils associated with overworking, many people still choose to forgo vacations. In fact, a 2015 survey from Glassdoor found that US employees only use half (51%) of their eligible paid vacation time.
“Some people are simply workaholics. Many employees feel they are already too behind in their work and they fear falling even further behind if they take their vacation. Some are worried about their boss’s perception, especially when no one else is taking their vacation. And some employees in a highly competitive industry are even fearful it can cost them their job either because it will reflect poorly on their work ethic or it will leave an opening for a colleague to prove themselves while they’re away,” explains Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage.”
But no matter how worried you are, or how much you love your work, not taking regular vacations is a proven recipe for burnout that can lead to major health issues and end up requiring an even longer break away from work, he says. “The list of stress-related health issues caused by an endless work schedule is enormous, including sleepless nights, stomach issues, irritability, backaches, and tension headaches.”
A 2015 study from University College in London found that overworking can lead to a 33% higher risk of having a stroke, and a 13% increased risk of a heart attack.
And beyond the numerous documented impacts on your health, forgoing vacations can lead to reduced productivity, dampened creativity, and more careless mistakes at work.
Taking vacations, however, can help you return to work refreshed and re-energised and thus better able to cope with challenges and day-to-day stressors.
“Unplugging from work, even just for a day or two, can help you maintain a better overall perspective on life, help strengthen your personal relationships, and boost your happiness levels which will all support a healthier, happier person showing up at work,” says Kerr.
“Since creativity is fed by new experiences and serendipitous encounters, taking regular vacations can lead to powerful insights and new ideas that you can bring back to the workplace. And although some people worry about their job security when they go away, the reverse can also be true: If you’re a valuable commodity at work, then going away can serve as a great reminder to your boss and colleagues of just how sorely you’re missed when you’re not around to handle things.”
Here are 12 signs you desperately need a vacation from work:
'It's an old joke with a lot of truth to it,' says Kerr. 'Any signs of chronic stress that might be signalling impending burnout are obvious red flags: irritability with colleagues, finding it difficult to concentrate on routine tasks, chronic tension headaches, back strain, stomach issues, or more serious health concerns.'
Whether you're having trouble falling asleep or waking up at 3:00 every morning, sleep issues can be a symptom of overwork and stress, or it can be a signal that you're too focused on your work at the expense of everything else, he explains.
If you find yourself having missed too many family dinners, school concerts, or family outings, it could be a clue that you need to reconnect with your family during some much needed vacation time, says Kerr.
'Whether it's errors on financial reports or customer transactions, if you find you're making more mistakes than usual, it could be a sign you need to reboot your mental hardware,' Kerr says.
If you're not as excited to get into work on a Monday morning as you once were, or you dread a work activity that you once enjoyed, you probably need a break. 'If you feel your work spirit flagging, and can't remember what it is that made you love your job, then it might be time to get away,' he adds.
Things that you could easily shrug off in the past or manage effectively now seem like insurmountable obstacles, Kerr explains. A lack of healthy perspective on issues can definitely be a sign you need to recalibrate your mental settings.
'Rather than going for a run or participating in fun activities in your off hours, all you can manage to do is drag yourself to your couch when you get home because your energy level is so depleted that you're not getting the health and wellness benefits from your off time the way you should be,' he says.
'Reaching for a glass of wine as soon as you're in the door from work, overeating, or forgoing your normal exercise routine, can all be signs you need to shake things up with a vacation,' Kerr says.
'Whe you find yourself daydreaming at work more and more about winning the lottery or dream vacations rather than focusing on your goals or demonstrating concern for your company's goals and well-being, it's time to book a trip,' Kerr says.