Americans have a twisted relationship with vacation days. We love to plan for time off (especially while we're at work), but we don't actually put our vacation days to use.
In 2014, 42 percent of Americans took zero vacation days, according to travel website Skift. In fact, Project: Time Off found that the American workforce leaves more than 400 million vacation days on the table each year.
But in the U.S., where burnout is the norm and stress is a given, taking time off can actually be the best thing you do for yourself and your job. Below, 5 reasons taking time off actually makes you more productive.
1. Your stress levels will plummet.
Eighty-three precent of workers in the U.S. claim to be stressed about their jobs, so taking a vacation to relax should be a no-brainer.
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system and a number of serious health conditions including depression and heart disease.
Studies have shown that taking a break from work, even in small doses, can decrease stress levels significantly. It's important to have a chance to relax and recover without assignments and emails hanging over your head.
2. You'll be more effective when you get back.
Highly stressful work environments lead to increased turnover, absenteeism and reduced productivity. According to the American Psychological Association, that stress costs U.S. businesses more than $300 billion each year.
Many employees feel guilt and anxiety over taking time off, but considering the benefits to the employee and the workplace, vacation time should be encouraged.
Employees who take vacations return to the workplace rejuvenated and ready to get back into the swing of things. Playing hard can help us work even harder.
3. You'll be a better employee -- and a better colleague.
Don't believe your inner monologue: Your office will not fall apart if you're absent for a week or two.
Forgoing vacation days doesn't do anyone any good, including your peers who might feel guilty for using theirs.
Just remember, there are ways to be a good employee even when you're not in the office. Plan ahead, set up your co-workers for success while you're away and, above all, really leave. Let your out-of-office message handle the rest.
4. You'll actually catch up on sleep.
One of the best things about taking time off is having the option to ditch the alarm clock. By not setting an alarm, you give your body permission to sleep as long as feels natural.
More than one-third of Americans don't get enough sleep -- and that's a big problem. Getting consistent, high-quality sleep is an essential element of wellbeing, and vacation is an ideal environment to revamp your sleeping habits. Hotel beds are scientifically wonderful and avoiding your usual screen time before bed can be the key to falling asleep.
Once you've felt the difference between 6 hours and 8 hours, you won't ever want to go back.
5. You'll be more creative.
Creativity in the workplace is an important tool, but it can be hard to find inspiration when you sit in the same desk chair for the same eight hours day in and day out. That's why an occasional change of scenery can be so effective -- and so necessary.
Real breaks -- ones without checking in at work and refreshing email inboxes -- allow our minds to wander, which can lead to increased creativity and productivity.
Basically, don't underestimate the power of a daydream.