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A sea kayaker glides near an iceberg.

University employee assistance counselor Lisa Dau near the village of Uummannaq, Greenland, during a 13-day kayaking and camping trip above the Arctic Circle.

Please take your vacation

Signed, your coworkers

By Anita Rios

Published on June 15, 2004

Jobs can be greedy things, gobbling up all the time we give them. In a country where we have six weeks less time off per year than our Western European counterparts, nearly half (46 percent) of U.S. employees feel overworked, according to the Families and Work Institute. That overwork has serious implications for safety in the workplace, job performance, retention, and health care costs. Yet, a full 25 percent of U.S. employees don't even take the vacation they're entitled to because of job demands.

Vacations are an important rest, recovery, and renewal strategy for creating work/life balance--especially in our fast-paced, 24/7 world. They provide an opportunity to recharge our batteries, so that we can return to work refreshed.

"As a counseling professional in a service-based job, I have to have at least two to three weeks a year when no one needs me and I can focus on my needs and whims," says University academic adviser Susan Warfield. "This allows me to come back refreshed and pour my heart and soul back into my job for the other 49 or 50 weeks of the year."

"I know many people who come back from vacation more exhausted than when they left," says Warfield.

The best type of vacation to take varies from person to person. University employee assistance counselor Lisa Dau relies on vacations that are physically active. "Because my work is abstract, intense, sedentary, busy, people-focused, and sometimes not under my control," says Dau, "I take skiing, scuba, and kayaking vacations that are far away from home and don't involve large numbers of people."

Warfield takes trips to explore new and different locations, but says she balances her busy work life with a few vacation days each year not traveling, but just sleeping in, hanging out, or shopping in town. "I know many people who come back from vacation more exhausted than when they left," says Warfield.

Often people are reluctant to take vacation because work piles up while they're away, making re-entry to the workplace stressful. Dau shared several survival strategies she uses:

This summer, our family vacation will feature a circle tour around Lake Superior, with pop-up camper in tow. With two children, ages four and eight, that means packing snacks and activity boxes full of coloring books and crafts for the road trip. Like many folks, I'm trying to balance work demands with family obligations, all the while planning time for relaxation and greater connection with my family. Call me in a few months to see how it went. In the meantime, as the billboards say, please take your vacation.

For Minnesota vacation ideas, check out Explore Minnesota. Anita Rios is the coordinator of the Work/Life Initiative in the Office of Human Resources.

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