The year was 2016. I was having a conversation with a mentor about work. He told me a story about someone who had died from overwork. The deceased’s company took out a half page ad for his obituary and right next to it, a full page ad for the new job opening. That image has never left me. Whoever you work for values your work but if you vanished today, they’d replace you. Despite this, many people in Nigeria refuse to take breaks from work.
Perhaps, we have a culture in Nigeria of glorifying those who work late into the night. Employers praise those who are always the first at their desks and the last to leave. If you work in such an organisation, the fear of being labelled “unserious” might stop you from taking your leave.
Taking your complete vacation is in your best interest. Studies have shown that those who fail to take their vacation time every year have a 21% increased chance of death from all causes. In Nigeria, where the life expectancy is 53 years, you need all the help you can get if you wish to live long enough to claim your pension.
Working for a long time without any breaks will increase fatigue, decrease your concentration and increase chances of you making mistakes from burnout. You need a vacation to give yourself time to do things you like without having to worry about work.
When you are overworked, your creativity also suffers. It’s no accident that the most creative ideas seem to hit one outside office hours. In an office environment or workspace where everyone is trying to meet deadlines and achieve targets, it can be difficult to take a step back, look at problems with a critical eye and come up with unique solutions. You need to be in a mental mood of relaxed attention before you get your “aha” moment.
Perhaps what suffers the most when you fail to take your vacation is relationship with your family. You miss out on taking a few weeks off to relax with your spouse and spend some time with the children.
If you have not had a vacation this year, please make plans to take it before the year ends. For next year, incorporate it into your plan for improved productivity because even if it seems weird at first, vacation is an integral part of personal productivity. You will have improved health, avoid burnout, have reduced stress and your relationship with your family will also improve.
What’s stopping you from taking a vacation this year? Feel free to share your thoughts.