Want to be More Productive? Take a Vacation

A reader over at Ask a Manager posted a question asking how to take a vacation when there’s always work to be done, and Allison gave a great answer about establishing criteria for being able to leave and mentioning that vacation time for employees is good for both the company and the worker.   I completely agree with this dual benefit vacations have (as I’m sure many people do), but is there any way to prove it?

Luckily there are people out there that do studies on this type of stuff.  Usually they have fancy titles like “professor” or “doctor” and wear labcoats, which is fine by me because someone needs to support the labcoat industry.  But what these people do is quantify what we all know to be true qualitatively.  With that said, here are 5 benefits of vacation.

1. Live longer.

A study reported in Psychosomatic Medicine (what a cool name) showed that men with a high risk of heart disease who take regular vacations are 30% less likely to die from a heart attack, and 21% less likely to die from any cause (including death metal).  And not to exclude women, a study from the Framingham Heart Study showed that women who take at least take 2 vacations per year were 8 times less likely to develop coronary heart disease than women who took only one every six years.

2. Be happier.

A study from the Wisconsin Medical Journal suggests women who take frequent vacations (at least once a year) are less likely to become tense, depressed or tired and are more satisfied with their marriages.  For the guys, re-read that last part: women who take frequent vacations are more satisfied in their marriages–the alone is one heckuva benefit of vacation.

3. Improve sleep.

A study from Air New Zealand found that people averaged an hour more of quality of sleep after a few days of vacation.   They also  saw their reaction times improve by 80 percent, so I’m hoping NYC cab drivers are taking vacations.

4. Improve productivity.

A survey deployed by Expedia found that, when returning from vacation, more than one-third of respondents feel more productive and better about their jobs (with more than half also claiming to feel rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal life).  Sounds like reason enough to me to take vacation from the office.

5. Solve problems.

An experiment at Indiana University found that students did a better job at solving problems when the problems were said to be from far away (such as India for students in Indiana).  The thought is that when we think about problems at a local level, our thoughts are more constrained and bounded by a more limited set of associations.  Most of us aren’t fortunate enough to be solving problems for countries around the world, so instead we can take a vacation and travel to new locales, opening our associations for better problem solving.

For more on the benefits of vacation (aka sources):

Are Vacations Good for Your Health?
Vacations provide mental health benefits for women
The Benefits of Vacation

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