Working Too Much Makes us Stupider – And Three Other Reasons to Plan Your Next Vacation

tasha eurich

American men—and women—are working more than ever. A recent Workforce Management study indicates that 55% of employees report that their workload has increased since the great recession, and 27% say it’s doubled.

You’d think that the first thing American workers would do after all this stress is take a vacation. But according to a poll from Ipsos Public Affairs, 44% of Americans have not taken a vacation in over two years! As it turns out, these people are actually stupider than they were two years ago. No, really—read on to learn why.

Four Reasons You Should Plan Your Next Vacation Immediately

  1. You’ll be smarter
    A study published in American Journal of Epidemiology followed British civil servants over the course of five years to learn the relationship between long hours and brain functioning. Compared to those who worked forty hours per week, participants who worked more than fifty-five hours showed poorer vocabulary and reasoning. In plain English, working too much actually makes us stupider.
  2. You’ll be healthier
    Working too much is also bad for your health. The Framingham Heart Study, a massive longitudinal research program that began in 1948, reported that taking annual vacations reduced men’s risk of heart attack by 30 percent.
  3. You’ll be happier
    It’s not just in your head—working long hours can result in depression. A study published in PLoS ONE showed that employees who worked more than 11 hours per day had twice the risk of depression than those who worked 7-8 hours per day.
  4. You’ll be more successful
    Even though it’s counterintuitive, workers who take vacations receive better performance reviews. A 2006 Ernst & Young study that showed that for each additional ten hours of vacation employees took, their performance reviews were 8 percent higher the following year!

Hopefully, these reasons are compelling enough to convince you to cash in some PTO. But if taking a vacation still feels stressful, it’s okay to start small. One study from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands found that even vacations of just a few days increased health and well-being—and because benefits faded after only 5 days, frequent, shorter vacations may actually be better. And even though the benefits are stronger when you don’t work on vacation, checking your e-mail a few times won’t hurt, especially if your fear of being out of pocket is preventing you from taking time off.

So, don’t wait! Stop making excuses! You can thank me later.

Dr. Tasha Eurich helps organizations succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders and teams. She passionately pairs her scientific grounding in human behavior with a practical approach to solving some of today’s most common leadership challenges. Dr. Eurich is also the author of Bankable Leadership: Happy People, Bottom-Line Results, and the Power to Deliver Both. She has been featured in The New York Times and Forbes and she has published articles in Chief Learning Officer Magazine and The Journal of Business and Psychology among many others. In 2013, Dr. Eurich was honored as one of Denver Business Journal’s “40 under 40” rising stars in business. Books can be ordered at

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