Do you use all of your vacation days?

Overview: After nine months without a day off, it's official: You need a vacation. But you feel you just can't leave the office for a long weekend, much less five days or – gasp! – two weeks.

You ask yourself: "Will the office survive without me?" "What if I'm replaceable?" or "Will people resent me if I take some time off?" Instead of chancing it, you'll just check your e-mail a few times, leave your cell phone number in case someone needs to contact you, and dial into your weekly conference call.

Nearly one-quarter of American workers bring work with them on vacation, according to's "Vacation 2006" survey. What's more, 16 percent of workers report feeling guilty about missing work while on vacation and 7 percent actually fear that time off could lead to unemployment.

Whatever you fear, time off from work is essential for doing your best professionally. More than half of workers say they work under a great deal of stress, and 77 percent say they feel burned-out on the job. The higher stress you experience, the more likely your job performance will suffer.

According to the Families and Work Institute, it takes up to three days to relax when you go on vacation and longer vacations (seven days or more) are associated with better psychological outcomes than shorter vacations. While 84 percent of workers told CareerBuilder they are planning to take a vacation this year, that might not be enough time to recharge. Thirty-two percent of workers are taking a vacation of five days or less while one-in-ten are limiting themselves to weekend getaways.

Work can be demanding, but taking it all with you just brings the stress to a new location. Cell phones, pagers and other electronic devices can create an e-leash of sorts. Planning ahead, managing expectations and setting boundaries with your co-workers are key to making sure you get the break you need.

To enjoy a stress-free and work-free vacation, try these tips:

  • Give 'em the 411. If you, your significant other and your travel agent are the only ones who know about your plans, you're heading into trouble. Give early notice for the dates you plan to take off to make sure your schedules run smoothly.
  • Think big. If you have a big project and a great vacation planned for the same week, you can expect one of the two to give. Schedule the dates before and after the big stuff to lighten your load and enjoy your time off.
  • Cross-train. You may feel you are irreplaceable for the work ahead, but cross-training a co-worker to share your task enables you to take time off and creates a network. Next time a co-worker needs to take a vacation, you can return the favor.
  • "Sorry, I missed your call..." Giving an alternative contact via voicemail or an automated e-mail response lets people know you'll be out and where they can get immediate assistance, so you don't experience inbox overload when you return.
  • Set limits. Checking in a couple of times during a week off is one thing, but if your job requires you to be a slave to your cell, you may want to talk it out with your boss before you go to establish boundaries.
  • What if you're the boss? If you're working for yourself, make sure you anticipate your busy seasons by reviewing your previous sales and current situation. Save vacation time for slower periods and make sure to notify customers in advance.
  • Think ahead Before leaving, make a list of tasks to address when you return. This will help you get back into the work mode without being overwhelmed.

This article is courtesy of  (MRINetwork™ poll of 387 people)

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