Vacations need not be long to have impact

The best-kept secret about vacations is that you don’t need to plan a budget-busting two-week trip abroad to combat workplace burnout and feel refreshed.  

This is pretty great, considering the Center for Economic and Policy Research reported last year that most American workers have about 15 days of paid leave at their disposal. 

Rachel Williamson Smith

The importance of how employees make the most of their down time factors into the research of Rachel Williamson Smith, an assistant professor of industrial and organizational psychology at LSU. Her work focuses on employee well-being and workaholism, with an overall goal of helping employees and organizations perform better in a way that helps people feel good and live healthier lives.

Turns out quality is better than quantity. “There is some research that has tried to compare a long weekend versus a two-week vacation,” Smith says. “The effects are pretty similar once employees go back to work.”

The most critical thing for maximizing time off not how many days off you have, or what you do with them, but actually leaving work behind. However, many workers apparently find that difficult. A recent poll conducted by NPR found that 30% of workers from a variety of fields admitted to doing a “significant amount of work while on vacation.”

“Essentially, what a lot of research seems to suggest is that, in general, vacations help employee health and well-being, but there is not any research to suggest that specific activities make a difference,” Smith says. 

Surfing in California or hiking in Tennessee won’t benefit you any more than a “staycation” in Louisiana if surfing or hiking isn’t your thing. The idea of what constitutes a true vacation is unique to each individual.

Leaving the office for a while can help with focus, creativity and overall performance, and those benefits can be extended by adequately preparing before going, Smith says. Planning ahead can help make sure that you don’t come back to an overwhelming avalanche of emails and tasks, souring the good vibes you racked up while off work.  

Here are a few ways you can detach from work: 

Eat al Fresco: Pack your lunch or pick up a meal to-go, and then take a longer lunch to picnic at one of BREC’s parks. This simple break in routine can show you a new part of the city and give you some fresh air away from the fluorescent office lights. Bring a friend for some tech-free catching up or go alone and enjoy the scenery. BREC has parks all over Baton Rouge, meaning you might not even have to drive far.  

Take a drive North: Just about 40 minutes from the Capital City, the hilly land north of here opens up. You can go hiking at Clark Creek Natural Area or look for antiques in St. Francisville. Read a recent guide from 225 Magazine about all the things to do in St. Francisville.  

Get some sand between your toes: Sometimes in our hurry to get to Destin or some of the towns along Florida’s 30A, we forget that Mississippi is home to beautiful white-sand beaches too. If you head out in the off-season, you could snag great hotel deals. It’s half the drive time and less crowded. 

Make a weekend trip out of a concert: Check out the tour dates of one of your favorite artists and plan a short trip around one of their concerts. You could fly in the morning of the show and explore a new city or go to a museum before dancing the night away at the show. The next morning, head out to lunch at one of Food and Wine’s recommended restaurants. 

Finally plan that big trip: Is there a place on your bucket list you want to visit or a new activity you’ve got to try, like sky diving or snorkeling? Take an hour and do some research about what it would take to make it happen. Think of it as an investment in yourself. 

How do you get away from it all? Share it with us in The Network group on LinkedIn

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