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Middle aged woman sitting on the swing and reading a book in the
ATD Blog

Why We Need to Get Outside and Use Our Paid Time Off

Thursday, May 12, 2022
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The pandemic has changed the way that we think about the workplace and work-life balance, possibly forever; however, there’s a big difference between our thoughts and how we act on these ideas. Case in point: most of us do not take the vacation that we need, and even during nights and weekends, we tend to respond right away to work emails and messages.

While at first it may seem to be counterintuitive, there are times when working less means more productivity. Not taking breaks multiple times throughout the day has proven to cause long-term burnout, which is difficult to recover from. Your career isn’t going anywhere. It’s OK not to be OK all the time, as a productive and healthy mind needs time and space to be at its best.

One such way to take a break is to slow down and take a walk outside. It’s wonderful to be outdoors more often, and the physical and mental health benefits of taking a break are numerous. But why stop with just taking a walk around the neighborhood? Taking a vacation in the great outdoors opens a world of possibilities—even if doing so wasn’t at the top of the list prior to the pandemic. Many are unable to travel long distances between countries, and it’s sometimes easy to forget the vastness of the United States. In fact, nearly 14,000 privately owned RV parks and campgrounds dot the country.

So, how can we disconnect? Can we even truly be disconnected anymore? Well, we can attempt to do some by first addressing the elephant in the room. Of the employees in America who do get paid time off (an alarming 28 million Americans do not), a staggering 55 percent of employees don’t use all their paid time off every year. As there is a glimmer of hope that pandemic cases recede to near-normal levels, we all could use a break from the office and our devices and try to spend more time with loved ones in a different change of setting. If this seems like a new practice to you, you can start slowly—even 20 minutes outdoors three days a week can help reduce stress, improve memory, boost cognitive function, and enhance your overall well-being.

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The obvious question is this: Why aren’t we taking the time off that we have earned? Most people surveyed have responded that they fear being replaceable at work, have a heavy workload, cannot travel with their pets, become stressed with planning a trip, and experience too high of costs associated with the typical vacation. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the way we think about work and play and look toward the outdoors as a vacation spot that should be doable to allay all of these typical concerns that people have.

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Learn more about how outdoor exploration for all can sharpen your skills and allow you to recenter in the visual deep dive below.

About the Author

Brian Wallace is the founder and president of NowSourcing, an industry leading content marketing agency that makes the world's ideas simple, visual, and influential. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019-present.