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Is taking a vacation worth the trouble?


July 26, 2016  | View PDF

As you read this, if all goes as planned, I will be on vacation. It’s not an easy thing to do. Even though my daughters are now adults, I feel like I’m leaving my child.

I’m lucky because I have a great babysitter. Delaine Fragnoli, a former managing editor, will run things in my absence, but I won’t be able to let go entirely. That’s partially due to the fact that my work emails are routed to my personal email so every time I check my iPhone — press releases, letters to the editors, and stories and photos from the reporters — will be intermingled with the latest missives from HGTV and Nordstrom’s, and messages from family and friends. I’ll do my best to scroll right past them.

As most of you can relate to, sometimes all of the work entailed to be away from the job, makes you question whether it’s worth it to leave at all. Such was my thought process standing in line at Safeway, when the cover of Women’s Health caught my eye. Alright, in full disclosure, what captured my attention was an amazing set of abs, but I thought it might make for good reading while sitting on the dock.

The first item I always read in any magazine is the letter from the editor, and this one couldn’t have been timelier. I found a kindred spirit in Amy Keller Laird, the editor in chief of Women’s Health, who in turn discussed Arianna Huffington’s approach to vacations. She is the editor in chief of The Huffington Post, and the Post’s email system is set up so that any message delivered to a vacationing employee is automatically deleted.

I gulped; panicked at just the thought of such a thing, until I read more. The employee decides whether to participate, and the sender receives a response that the employee will receive the email when he or she returns to work. Keller Laird, who admitted to the same panicked moment that I did, went on to describe the vacation problem in this country. She wrote that 40 percent of Americans didn’t take a single day off last year and that those who did step away from work only used half of their accrued time.

My panic switched to guilt. Forty percent of Americans didn’t take a day off, and I was taking five days! To assuage my guilt, I reminded myself that the first day I would actually be working at a freelance job, so that meant I was only taking four days off.

But then I read even further. Women who take vacations are less likely to be depressed, and those “who don’t go away have a significantly greater risk for heart attack.”

Panic again. Maybe I should take more time off!

Keller Laird also addressed lunch and our propensity to work through that meal. “People who take legit lunch breaks are, like those who go on vacation, more productive and effective at work, and healthier and happier in life.”

Aha! In the long run taking a break now will make me more effective when I return.

But as I shut the magazine and prepared to pack it with my other reading materials, those cover abs caught my eye again — another bout of panic. Sitting on the dock would require a bathing suit. Then came the corresponding guilt. Did I really need to eat the entire bag of caramel corn? But that panic and guilt cycle is for another column. I’m on vacation.


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