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Taking vacation is good for you; it’s a fact

Rehoboth Beach in 2006. (Flickr / Darren and Brad / “IMG_6785.JPG” / CC BY-SA 2.0 / cropped and resized)

Rehoboth Beach in 2006. (Flickr / Darren and Brad / “IMG_6785.JPG” / CC BY-SA 2.0 / cropped and resized)

Feeling swamped at work? Stressing over keeping your kids busy this summer? Looking for that next big promotion or bonus?

Take a vacation.

Yes, you read that correctly – recent studies show that not only does taking paid time off help make you more productive and less stressed but using your vacation time to its fullest (i.e. using all of your paid days off) makes you more likely to get a raise or a promotion.

If you take the time to plan your trip at least a month in advance, 94 percent of the time you’ll come back to work with more energy and less stress. The key to a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation is being organized and planning ahead, according to the Harvard Business Review.

According to a study by Project: Time Off, if you use 10 or more of your vacation days you have a 65.4 percent chance of getting a raise or bonus. Those who took 10 or fewer of their paid time off had only a 34.6 percent likelihood of getting a raise or bonus.

Despite the myriad benefits of taking paid vacation, Americans are doing it less and less.

Americans have lost nearly a week of vacation over the past 15 years, the U.S. Travel Association found in a new study. Despite recent years of economic turmoil, unemployment rate doesn’t directly correlate with time off. Constant connection to work seems to be part of the culprit – almost 50 percent of office employees said technology increases the amount of time they work, according to the Pew Research Center.

Project: Time Off found that more than half of American workers don’t use all their vacation time – adding up to 658 million lost paid vacation days and in $61.4 billion in forfeited benefits. In other words, too many Americans are working for free.

In fact, U.S. federal law doesn’t require any paid vacation time at all – compared to other countries like Brazil and Lithuania, which offer 41 total days off, while Finland, France and Russia offer a minimum of 40 days off. Every country in the European Union requires at least four weeks of paid vacation, with Austria coming in with the most – a legal minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays each year.

Taking a vacation boosts your happiness and helps the people around you as well. If every employee used all of their time off, the economy would enjoy more than $160 billion in total business sales and $21 billion in tax revenues, spending that would support 1.2 million jobs in industries ranging from retail to manufacturing to transportation, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

While work ethic and perseverance are the hallmarks of an American employee, our good intentions can lead us astray. So get out and take a break – after all, it’s good for you.