Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On Vacation!

I just got back from vacation!  My husband, stepdaughter, and I went to Miami for five days.  We'd initially planned to go to Jamaica, but some unexpected setbacks required us to change plans at the last minute. 

I think most would agree that vacations are beneficial.  Time away from work for rest and relaxation is critical for happiness and well being.  Intuitively, we know we feel better after a few days off work; there's also a large body of research demonstrating the benefits of vacation.  People who take regular vacations report higher overall levels of satisfaction with life than those who don't.  Employees returning to work after vacation show increased work engagement and job performance and decreased emotional exhaustion and burnout. 

Unfortunately, the measurable benefits of vacation are short lived.  Study after study finds that work productivity and burnout return to pre-vacation levels within two to four weeks.  This remains true even when people take extended vacations (say, longer than fourteen days); within a month, productivity and burnout are back to pre-vacation levels. 

This suprirsed me.  I am a strong advocate of vacations.  We spend all week pining for the weekend.  We rejoice when we finally reach Friday.  An upcoming vacation has the same effect, only amplified.  We can look forward to a vacation for weeks or even months.  And afterwards...well, some of my best memories are of vacations past.  I cherish those memories.  They never fail to make me smile.

But how do you measure that?  I'm not sure you can.  I think many of the benefits of vacation are not measurable.  As far as science goes, if you can't measure it then it doesn't exist.  But science is not life. Life is full of intangibles that cannot be seen, touched, or measured but that nonetheless enrich our lives and give them meaning.

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