Seriously! It’s been almost 100 degrees out this past week. How can anybody concentrate? It’s definitely vacation time around the office and hopefully you’ve had the chance to take one this summer.If you haven’t taken a vacation yet, why not?Do you think your boss won’t let you? Are you worried your employees can’t manage without you? Do you need the hours and the money? Are you worried you’ll get behind on projects? Are you worried you will lose your job?Deep breaths. It’s going to be okay.First say this out loud, “I deserve a break.” We all know you’re thinking it. So don’t feel guilty for saying it!Since everyone is thinking it, we thought we’d talk about the importance of taking a vacation from work in this week’s article. Why don’t people take vacations? What are the actual benefits of taking a vacation? And what should you do to prepare for a vacation? We’ll cover all those topics today!Here we go.Why People Don’t Take Vacations From WorkBusiness owners and employees come up with all kinds of excuses to not take a vacation. Most people say they can’t afford it. But a vacation doesn’t have to cost money. Sometimes just a relaxing day at home while the kids are at school or daycare can do the trick to rejuvenate your mind.According to Expedia’s 2011 Vacation Deprivation Study, American companies typically give employees 14 vacation days (which is a lot lower than the majority of the other countries). So how many vacation days do employees actually use? Only 12!Here are the reasons why people don’t take vacations:- Can’t afford it: 34%- Don’t schedule far enough in advance: 15%- Can get paid for unused days: 11%- Work is my life: 15%- May be perceived negatively at work: 6%- Important work decisions will be made without me: 3%- Vacation negatively affects spouse or family member’s job: 4%- None apply: 38%Even while on vacation, it can be hard for Americans to “unplug” from work and truly relax.When asked how often they check work email on vacation, Americans gave these responses:Constantly 4%Regularly 20%Sometimes 34%Never 41%Luckily, 73% of Americans said that their bosses are supportive of taking vacation time. And 56% leave work behind as soon as they leave for vacation.Benefits To Taking A Vacation (or Stay-cation) From WorkSo you’ve requested your time off, packed your bags and you’re ready to go. Still feeling guilty.Don’t.We all need a vacation to a certain extent. Some need the physical distance and change of scenery, while others are happy to take a break by staying home from work for a few days. Either way, we all need to recharge.The Vacation Deprivation study suggests when employees take vacations, businesses and the economy benefit. How exactly?According to the survey results, 34 percent of the respondents reported feeling better about their jobs and more productive after taking a vacation.Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of “The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World,” explains that workers who forgo their vacations aren’t doing themselves or their companies any favors. Even if they are physically present, they have often mentally checked out.”If people are overworked, they’re surfing the Internet,” Hohlbaum says. “They’re not contributing to the bottom line.”By taking time off from your job, you are actually helping your company. And let’s not forget the positive effects on your mental health. Vacations offer the chance for people to refresh life perspectives and become more motivated to achieve goals.Did you know that people who don’t take enough time to relax may find it harder to relax in the future?”Without time and opportunity to do this, the neural connections that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it actually more difficult to shift into less-stressed modes,” said clinical psychologist Deborah Mulhern. “What neuroscience is showing is that we require down time in order for our bodies to go through the process of restoration. It is only when we are safe from external stresses that our bodies can relax enough to activate restoration.”You’re doing your future, retired self a favor by learning to relax.The bottom line is that taking a good amount of time away from the stresses of daily life can give us the break we need so that we can return to our lives refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes.How to Prepare for a Vacation from WorkNow that we’ve convinced you to finally take the vacation, you have to get prepared. Before you jet off to some tropical beach, you need to get your work life in order.How so?Just follow these simple steps:- Notify your clients ahead of time that you will be out of the office- Brief someone in your office on all open projects, and what to do with them.- Record a vacation greeting to let callers know that you will be out of the office and when they can expect you back. Also do this for your e-mail in the form of an auto-reply.- Select someone to cover for you in case one of your clients, supervisors or co-workers needs immediate assistanceRemember, the better you prepare for your vacation, the more you will enjoy it knowing that your clients and employees are taken care of.Did you know?Some organizations are mandated by their industry to have each employee out of the office for five consecutive days. Check your handbook to see if you have a policy like this. You may be breaking the rules without ever realizing it!Wring out those swimsuits, dig out that metal detector, remove the cobwebs from your lawn chairs and hit the beach! Or maybe just grab your favorite book and curl up on the couch, whatever satisfies your need for a vacation (or a stay-cation).But first, consult your handbook to double check how many vacation days you are allotted each year and the right process to go about requesting those days. And then, relax and rejuvenate! We’ll see you in a week!