michelle.jpgLook how relaxed Michelle Obama looks. Maybe more of us should be taking a page from her vacation bonanza.

There’s been all this outrage over the First Lady’s lavish trip to Spain. Yes, it was a dumb idea given the bad economy.

But I’m more outraged at another piece of vacation news that got little attention this week — a poll showing a huge number of Americans deciding not to take vacation this summer.

This is a really dumb idea and it won’t help you find a job faster or keep your existing one.

The job site Monster.com did a poll in July to find out if the economy was impacting vacation plans among workers and they found:

* 70 percent of respondents are so focused on their job search, that they will not take any time off for vacation.
* 18 percent are planning a trip
* 12 percent are taking time off, but staying at home, otherwise known as a “staycation.”

The worse part is the survey also found these folks really need some serious R&R:

When asked, “Do you get paid for working overtime?”, 60 percent of the nearly 3000 respondents said they were actually putting in extra hours without receiving any additional pay.

“While it’s surprising to see how many people are not planning any time off this year, either due to guilt or fear of losing their jobs, it’s really interesting when you factor in the extra amount of time Americans are working, without any added compensation,” said Jeff Quinn, senior director of research, Monster Worldwide. “With many workers spending additional unpaid time in the office, employers also need to consider quality of life implications, and the subsequent effects on work quality. And as the economy begins to turn around, retention could be a real concern for some employers.”

And what about your mental health guys, not to mention the damage no vacations does to your career?

Some workers have a perverted view that not taking time off and keeping their nose to the grindstone will advance their career, or keep their jobs from ending up on the chopping block.

But in fact, it could lead to burnout, emotional and physical illness, and end up jeopardizing their careers, their lives.

So take vacation, people!

“Taking a vacation is not a luxury — it’s a necessity,” says Kathleen Hall, founder of The Stress Institute in Atlanta. “If you don’t have the opportunity to relax and reflect you get stressed, and chronic stress is the driver of most diseases — heart disease, obesity, insomnia.”

“We’ve become a nation of workaholics,” says Jeff Pfeffer, Stanford University professor and the author of “What They Were Thinking: Unconventional Wisdom about Management.” “Part of it is a macho culture of ‘I can work more than you can. I don’t need sleep or rest.’ ”

Indeed, the United States is one of the only industrialized nations that does not require employers to provide their workers with vacation or sick time.

Ask yourself, he says, why pro football players play when they’re hurt, even though evidence shows it can shorten their careers. “It’s all this think-tough attitude. That you’re more loyal or dedicated if you forgo vacation.”

“Given how screwed up the American workplace is today, giving up your earned time might get you kudos from some managers,” he acknowledges. But it won’t help workers in the long run, he adds.

If your productivity declines, you won’t get raises or promotions, and you could end up losing your job. This becomes even more critical when your job involves creative or critical thought, experts says.

A good rest may even bring career advancement.

“Your vacation just might be the key to identifying the new product or strategy you’ve been struggling with for months,” says Noah Blumenthal, a consultant and author of “You’re Addicted to You: Why It’s So Hard to Change and What You Can Do About It.”

For those who do pack their bags, a long weekend won’t really cut it.

“It is important for people to take their vacations — meaning vacations of a week or two long. Taking a day or two doesn’t do as much good,” explains Wallace Huffman, economics professor at Iowa State University. “Productivity could increase by up to 60 percent for employees in the month or two following a good vacation.”

And that doesn’t mean taking along a suitcase full of electronic gadgets that keep you connected to the office or plant. You have to disconnect in order to unwind. Minimize the use of cell phones, laptops and PDAs if you want all the benefits of relaxation, Huffman adds.

The is all even harder for someone who is out of work. First off, you probably don’t have the money to spend on a big vacation, and you don’t want to miss a second from your job search.

Well, you don’t have to go somewhere fancy. Forget Spain. Sorry Michelle. You can visit a friend, or go to a cheap hotel by the shore for a few days. Given the economy, there are deals to be had.

And for those of you worried about missing that one opportunity for the perfect job, the summer is never the best time to look for work anyway. Most hiring managers will seriously have their heads in the hiring game come September, so you need to reinvigorate yourselves right now.

We need to start thinking as a nation that leisure time is why we all work in the first place. No?

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