Research suggests you should take a vacation

Why you should still take vacation days even if they're used for a "staycation"

2-minute read

You may not know it, but the Human Resources professionals in your life want you to take a vacation. COVID-19 has led to a dramatic decrease in PTO requests across industries, leading to fear of burnout and anxiety that multiple requests for PTO will stack up at the end of the year. 

The logic for many of us is clear: What’s the point of PTO if a workday that is normally spent in pajama bottoms, staring at a laptop and taking care of the kids stuck in a house, becomes a non-workday in pajama bottoms, taking care of the kids stuck in a house? 

Unfortunately, this 4th of July weekend means many of us  face an enforced day off without clear options for recreation. Trails and beaches will likely overflow with potential vectors for disease, while bars and restaurants shutter their doors in many states due to a recent spike in COVID. 

Thankfully, a research team at Harvard showed that vacation can be a state of mind. In a simple experiment, researchers asked 500 workers to treat their next weekend “as a vacation,” with no further instructions. On Monday, they compared these workers’ emotional states with the control group, who was told to treat their weekend as normal. 

The results? Workers who “took a vacation” reported feeling happier, more satisfied, and less stressed. Despite not taking dramatic trips to exotic vistas, study participants found ways to be more present and open to the possibilities of the day, and to create joyous moments (for example: making special pancakes). 

For leaders and managers, even as your team mourns lost fireworks displays and missed cookouts, remind them that vacation is a mindset.  Share how you’ll be making the most of your long weekend, and remind everyone that small breaks are crucial tools for resilience amidst turbulent times. 

Bonus points if you hold a competition for most creative staycation. Maybe Monday July 6 is devoted to a slideshow of all the new and interesting ways you found to sit on your porch. 

How are you making vacation a state of mind? Let us know in the comments. 

Worried about burnout? Check out our diagnostic checklist.