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Why taking your vacation is worth the hassle

If you can’t remember the last time you took a vacation, you’re not alone. While American workers are stressed, they’re not taking time away from work.

According to a survey conducted online earlier this year by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder, 3 in 5 workers (61 percent) say they are burned out in their current job, and 31 percent report high or extremely high levels of stress at work, yet only a third of all workers (33 percent) have not taken or do not plan to take a vacation this year.

Are workers truly getting away or are vacations causing more stress?

Survey Highlights

  • 33 percent of workers said they won’t be taking a vacation this year, down slightly from 35% last year
  • 3 in 10 workers still stay connected with work during vacation
  • Nearly 1 in 5 have left vacation days unused in 2016
  • People in power positions—i.e., senior management and vice presidents—are the least stressed of all workers
  • Women were more likely to report high stress levels at work than men
  • Anger issues at work, depression, and sleepless nights are among stress-related symptoms workers say they have experienced

When employees do take advantage of vacation time, they are often not fully disconnecting from their jobs. The survey found that 3 in 10 (31 percent) check work email while away and nearly a fifth (18 percent) check in with work. More than a third (36 percent) say that they’ve returned from vacation to find so much work, they wish they’d never left at all, and 18 percent say vacations cause them to be more stressed out about work. This could be the reason nearly 1 in 5 (17 percent) left vacation days on the table at the end of last year.

How is stress negatively impacting workers?

Nearly a third of employees surveyed say work causes high or extremely high stress levels for them—an issue that is impacting women (34 percent) more than men (27 percent)—and 79 percent say their company does not offer classes or programs to manage that stress.

As a result of stress, employees are experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Being tired all the time: 29 percent
  • Sleepless nights: 26 percent
  • Aches and pains: 24 percent
  • High anxiety: 23 percent
  • Weight gain: 18 percent
  • Can’t keep things straight in your head: 17 percent
  • Anger issues at work: 16 percent
  • Depression: 15 percent
  • High blood pressure: 10 percent
  • Weak immune system: 6 percent
  • Nausea: 5 percent
  • Hair loss: 5 percent

Stress is also impacting areas such as job satisfaction. A third of employees who reported high levels of stress (33 percent) say they are dissatisfied with their job. Seventeen percent of workers say they are dissatisfied with their job overall.

While stress and being burned out impact employees across the organization, the bottom ranks seem to be more burned out than others:

  • Senior management/vice president: 43 percent
  • Director/manager/supervisor/team leader: 69 percent
  • Professional/technical staff member: 58 percent
  • Entry level/administrative/clerical: 61 percent

How to take a real vacation

“If you’re a boss, it’s important that you role model how to take a vacation,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “If you’re prone to answering every email and phone call that comes through on your own vacation time, consider the example you’re setting for your team members. You need to set up an automated response email, and only respond to absolutely urgent emails while you’re away. Direct all calls to an assistant or colleague at the office. Show your employees that vacation time matters to you and to your company and its culture.”

The following tips can help you moderate working on vacation while quelling guilt pangs—so you don’t reach the end of your holiday needing another one.

  • Tell everyone you’re off: People will think twice about contacting you about the small stuff if they know you’re on vacation. So whether you’re planning a quiet staycation or a trip halfway around the world, let your manager, colleagues, and clients know you’ll be off the clock. In addition, set an out-of-office message to let folks know you won’t be answering emails or phone calls—or, if you will stay connected, explain in the auto-reply that they shouldn’t expect a reply right away.
  • Deploy and delegate: To make sure business and client needs are taken care of in your absence, set the auto-reply on your email to provide the names and contact information for the colleagues who are covering for you. Be sure to give those coworkers any important files, project statuses, and other pertinent information so they won’t have to contact you unless it’s an absolute emergency.
  • Set aside check-in times: If you can’t resist the call of duty—or find it nearly impossible to relax without knowing all is well—consider setting aside some time each day to touch base. Checking in once in the morning and once in the evening may give you peace of mind and permission to stop thinking about work the rest of the day. That way, you can leave your work cellphone turned off—and not feel bad about it—when you’re supposed to be relaxing and having fun.

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