What Is “Guilty Vacation Syndrome?”

Too often we feel guilty about taking the vacation days we are given—three quarters of all American workers earn paid time-off, yet many of us fail to use them.

Research from Oxford Economics shows that American workers failed to use more than 400 million days of earned leave last year. We have become a society of workers conditioned to think of vacation as a luxury, even if it’s deserved—despite growing evidence that vacations are good for you. Taking a much-needed break from work has been proven to lead to lower stress, better job productivity, improved relationships, and a healthier outlook on life. Yet time and again, we make excuses for not getting away: I can’t afford it, I’ll use my days for a staycation to get things done around the house, I don’t know where to go, I’m too stressed at work to leave right now.

Guilty Vacation Syndrome

When thinking about taking a vacation, which best describes you?

  1. Dreading the inevitable “must be nice” sarcastic comment from your co-workers.
  2. Thinking about the right time to get away makes you sweat.
  3. Already feeling guilty about taking time off from work.
  4. Knowing you’ll probably do some work while on vacation frustrates your family.

If you chose any of the above answers, chances are you suffer from “Guilty Vacation Syndrome.” The first step towards recovery is to change the way you think about vacation: it is a necessity, not a luxury.

You not only deserve a vacation because you work hard every day, you need a vacation, and you should not feel guilty or let someone else make you feel guilty for taking one.  We can’t afford to overlook the importance of regular time away with family and friends as a positive contributor to achieving a better work-life balance.

Enjoying a guilt-free vacation is about overcoming the guilt of being gone, committing to not working while on vacation, and embracing some much-needed time off. Here are few tips to get started:

  • Use your earned vacation days. Don’t get to the end of the year and have days left on the table!
  • Discuss with your boss an appropriate time to get away and offer help to colleagues when it’s their turn to take time off. Sharing the workload will lessen the likelihood of resentful co-workers when you go away!
  • Make sure you prepare well for your vacation so your work doesn’t fall apart while you are away, and so co-workers can find information if needed in your absence.
  • Set boundaries and stick to them. Do not agree to be “on call” or “readily available” while you are away. If your workplace knows they can reach you while you are away, they most certainly will. And you may need another vacation when you return to work!
  • Toss out the mindset that the company will fall apart if you aren’t there. The company, and your workload, will be there when you return.
  • Remember that if you don’t take some time off, your health, your family, and your work will eventually begin to suffer. Vacation time is not just a luxury— it’s a necessity for being a healthy, well-rounded human being.

Take a vacation, you deserve it!

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