Mixing Work With ‘Play’ Keeps the Doctor Away

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By: Mamta Patel Nagaraja, Ph.D.

When I embarked on my around the world honeymoon in December of last year, I had no idea that the theme of my vacation was going to entail shock over two Americans traveling for more than a week or two.

There were two main things people in every nation wanted to talk to us about: 1) Obama and 2) the amount of time we managed to take off. Three months. Yes, that’s right. Three entire months. Surprised? That’s my point. Everyone is surprised because either you are American or you know about America and our lack of laws that mandate companies provide their employees with vacation days. Many times, the vacation days to which an American is entitled end up unused for fear of returning to Mr. No Vacation in his seat (former seat, to be exact now).

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It’s ludicrous and by my own attestment, a health risk. Yes, I said it. A health risk. Sure, I have no empirical data backing such a claim. But women have intuition, right?

Let me expound. I work for the government, and thankfully, I am in the minority of Americans who have a somewhat secure job. Though, I must claim that I established my reputation and work ethic before asking off for the months of vacation that I had saved. Even prior to that moment, I often took long weekends, sometimes working to complete get-ahead tasks. For that line of thinking, I credit time management skills, thank-you-very-much-to-my-Mom.

I noticed every time I returned from my weekends away (visiting my nieces, nephews, parents, siblings, or the mountains), I was in a better mood, more motivated, and much happier than most people in my group. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I lecture each of them to try my “prescription”, sometimes even claiming my Ph.D. made me almost qualified to suggest such a cure. Those who listened returned to my cube on Monday thanking me for the gentle push. So, sure, I have no scientific data, but I am willing to bet you were either nodding your head as you read that last paragraph OR thinking Hmm…maybe I should try this. You think the boss would go for it?

Do you know which part of these conversations was most astounding? That we were discussing our three month vacation with Europeans who were taking a year off. An entire year! If only…

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Sigh. I’ll continue to reap the benefits of the diligence of my parents, whose determination for a better life landed me in this oh-so-comfortable spot in time. However, I hope you, my reader, find the courage to say: my family, health, and happiness are so important that I may as well ask my boss to take my hard earned vacation days.

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All in all, I work hard, but I play hard too. It makes me happy, and happy people work more so they can, ultimately, play more. It’s the great circle of life. If only American companies would figure that out for themselves OR our country takes a hint from others and mandates that they do…

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