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Working vacations don’t work

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I sometimes like to use this forum to talk about vacation. Why? Mostly because I really like vacation. 

It’s not just about the traveling part of it — though I love visiting new places (and of course, the same places over and over again). I also like the idea of escaping — from work, emails, phone calls (even when they don’t have anything to do with work. Sorry, friends and family.)

I just like putting things on hold and take a breather to focus on, well, me.

After all, vacation makes people healthier and happier.

I’m bringing this up this time because of a sad new survey of Americans regarding how they perceive their vacations.

Harris Interactive found that 61 percent of employed vacationers plan to work during vacation this year, up from 52 percent found in a similar survey in 2012 and 46 the year before that.

And it’s worse for Generation Y (that’s me): 73 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 said they expect to work during their time off this year.

But there’s more to the problem than working just while on vacation — more employees are working on weekends, too. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a third of the highest paid workers worked on an average Saturday, Sunday or holiday, for an average of 3.6 hours.

To sum it up — work and busy schedules causes stress which isn’t good for you mentally or physically. And now it’s overflowing into our off-time, which we should use as a chance to unwind and recharge.

Blame technology. Blame our employers. Blame our reluctance to relax. Blame our overwhelming fear of losing our job.

Blame ourselves? Maybe. The same Harris Interactive poll finds that the majority of Americans who work during vacation or their off-time don’t want to and are upset about it. But they still do it.

Regardless of who’s to blame, not relaxing during vacation will ultimately hurt our health.

Not only is it necessary for mental health, research shows that regularly taking vacations greatly reduces the risk of heart disease and heart attack while helping people sleep better and feel better.

So, what’s there to do? It’s easy to say just relax but hard to actually do it, especially when we have a smartphone in hand all the time. Experts suggest completely unplugging is necessary to relax during a vacation (or weekend). So possibly leave the phone at home.

We could all take a cue from one of my favorite co-workers who ended an email just before he took a full week off work with the warning: “If you contact me while I’m away, 1) I won’t respond to you, and 2) I will harbor it against you in my heart forever. Something will be broken between us.”

That’s certainly one way to do it — and an awesome one at that. But no matter how you do it, just do it.

As for me, I’m taking a long weekend beginning Friday. And sure, it’s for a long weekend in New Jersey. That humid state facing a heat wave. In July. And I’m visiting relatives. And going to a Bon Jovi concert.

But hey, time off work is still time off work. And I’m planning on enjoying it.

After all, I take good health seriously. And I’m pretty sure when Bon Jovi sings “Bad Medicine,” he’s singing about the dangers of working while on vacation. So I will gladly heed his advice and disconnect.

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