According to a recent survey, the average U.S. employee takes less than half of their allotted vacation each year. But Kansans come in worse than average, with Kansans taking just 36% of their annually allotted vacation. Our numbers are so bad, Kansans rank ninth in the country in unused vacation.

We could learn a thing or two from our neighbors to the east. Missourians come in 30th, taking nearly half of their vacation. Still, that’s not much to be proud of. Nationwide, the numbers are daunting, with only 25% of Americans taking all of their paid vacation days.

Even among those who actually do go on vacation, three in five admitted to doing some work. A quarter were contacted by a coworker while they were on vacation, and 20 percent were contacted by their supervisor about a work-related issue.

The bad – or the good – news (depending on how you look at it) Americans really need to take more time off. All sorts of reports say taking time off is good for your mental and physical health, and you can come back more productive and effective. It’s a win-win.

If your work depends on being sharp, creative, and industrious, here’s to losing the guilt. As you consider how much time to take off this summer, remember why breaks exist — to replenish ourselves. We all need to get away physically and mentally, and here’s why:

1. Burnout is a high price to pay for employees – and businesses.

It’s easy to see an absent employee as a bad thing for business, but an employee who’s never absent may actually be worse. Numerous studies have shown that never taking time off can set off a wide range of issues, from health problems to burnout. In Success Under Stress, author Sharon Melnick writes that 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and 70% of healthcare provider visits are due to stress-related conditions.

Employee vacations have a precise ending; physical and mental health problems do not.

2. People report feeling better and ready for work after some time off.

In an ABC News article, clinical psychologist Francine Lederer observes, “most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation.” Lederer calls the impact of breaks on mental health “profound.” Employees also report feeling more creative after they’ve disconnected from work.

In addition, that post-vacation mentality reduces conflict and tension in the workplace. Tony Schwartz is the founder of The Energy Project, an organization that aims to increase both our productivity and our well-being at work. When in the throes of establishing his business, Schwartz noticed that “the intensity of demand had begun to wear [my employees] down, too, and it showed up in a collective tendency to be more emotionally reactive — shorter and sharper — and more willing to settle for an easy solution rather than do the hard work necessary to get the best result.”

3. Vacations help us manage stress now – and in the future.

Psychologist Deborah Mulhern suggests that not taking time off can make it harder for our minds and bodies to relax now – and from now on. Mulhern says, “the neural connections that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it actually more difficult to shift into less-stressed modes.”

4. Vacations are best, but all breaks are important.

Studies have shown that the human mind does better working for short, intense periods of time, and then taking a quick break. Continuous work can actually cause people to feel blocked and unable to find solutions or perform their jobs well. In an article for The New York Times, Schwartz explains: “during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals.”

If you truly can’t take defined vacations, incorporate small breaks in your day. Go to lunch with a friend, or close your office door and take a few deep breaths. Or surf the Internet for ten minutes! A Wall Street Journal article discussed research that those taking a Web-surfing “rest break” were significantly more productive and effective at tasks and reported lower levels of mental exhaustion and boredom with higher levels of engagement.

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