All work and no play makes Jack an unhealthy boy

Summer time, and the livin’ is easy.
School is almost out, the kids are going to be kicking around the house, and everyone is dying to rev up the station wagon and head out on a little family vacation. You can see yourself lying on the beach and taste the tall, fruity, rum drinks with the little umbrellas in them already.
Trouble is, you’re so busy at work that you can’t find the time to get away for a week or two.
You’re not alone. A recent survey by Expedia.com found that the average working American adult lets 1.8 earned vacation days go to waste every year—which amounts to giving back about $19.3 billion to their employers.
But the fact that you’re giving money back to your boss is not the worst of it. What really puts the fly in the ointment is the fact that not taking all of your vacation time makes you less productive, less loyal to your company, and even less healthy. Americans are suffering in ever-growing numbers from what on-line travel retailer Expedia.com has dubbed “vacation deprivation,” a curable but highly contagious and insidious condition.
Another survey conducted by VacationCoach, an on-line provider of travel-planning advice, reports that Americans are working more and more, and vacationing less and less. The point of this unhappy exercise, it says, is simply for workers to keep their jobs. A whopping 33 percent of the 400-person sample said they are too busy at work to take time off. Even more telling, 11 percent reported that they were afraid their jobs wouldn’t be there for them when they returned from vacation, and 20 percent claimed that they never take vacations.
The real paradox is that, although 71 percent of the workers who responded to the Expedia survey say they wish their employers would provide more vacation time, and 60 percent wish they could use more of their time, about 60 percent of working adults in their 30s are extremely unlikely to use the time that they’ve earned.
All this, the experts agree, leads to a bad case of worker burnout and worse. An Oxford Health Plan study last year found that one in six workers are overloaded with work but feel they can’t afford to take the time they have earned. A 20-year-long study by the Centers for Disease Control demonstrated a link between lack of vacation time and an increased risk of heart attack and even death among middle-aged women. A similar project conducted by the psychology department of the State University of New York at Oswego examined more than 12,000 men over the course of nine years and found that those who took regular vacations were far less likely to die of coronary heart disease than those who did not use their time off—and this was even after allowing for general health and socio-economic variables among the survey participants.
It’s not a pretty picture, folks. Taking vacation time is critical. It’s even good for your employer, if that argument carries any weight with you. In January of this year, the Xylo Report: Vacation Habits of Working Adults, found that fully 93 percent of employees feel that taking time off improves their productivity. Some employers even agree with this. The VacationCoach study reported that companies such as Shaw’s Supermarkets, Wild Apple, ProMedia, and ISM concur in the belief that workers who take all their vacation time are more motivated, more productive, and more loyal. Accordingly, those employers have implemented incentive programs to help their workers take their earned vacation days.
With that in mind, sellers of travel are encouraging workers to take the kind of vacations they can easily fit into their busy schedules: the quick, three- or four-day getaway that is taken several times a year, rather than the traditional two-week jaunt that cuts so deeply into work time.
Some on-line travel services are making this easier than ever, combining airfare, hotel, and other travel needs into economical, brief respite packages that can be booked with a few clicks of the mouse.
Of course, the real beauty of travel e-tailers is the ease with which an office worker can buzz into the Internet, run a few quick searches, and set up a family holiday, all during lunch hour. Services such as the three big hitters—Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline—offer an increasing selection and variety of vacation packages. Newcomers such as Hotwire and the somewhat beleaguered Orbitz also offer innovative pricing that appeals to even the most tireless (not) 30-something workaholic. Site59 and OneTravel.com, which recently acquired 11thhourvacations.com, also provide attractively priced, last-minute packages.
So, if you’re considering putting off that four-day trip to the Bahamas this summer so you can bask in the glow of your office’s fluorescent tubes while rewriting a report for your boss, rethink that choice. Not only will taking a couple of quick trips make you a better worker, it will make you a healthier and happier person—as well as more popular at home. It could even extend your life.
And the Internet is removing at least one of the obstacles that stand between you and that fruity drink!
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