Leave the Office for Lunch and Take a Vacation Break for Work-Life Balance

The VacationCounts philosophy is that time off matters and a healthy work-life balance is essential to happiness in life (and work).  When told by your employer that you are only allowed to take a set number of vacation days each year, your natural belief is that vacations cannot occur outside of these scheduled and approved blocks of time.  While taking a family trip to a beach destination or traveling to a national park over the summer meets the typical definition of “vacation”, I subscribe to a broader meaning that captures the true purpose of the word vacation.

The sign says to take a VacationLooking up “vacation” in the Merriam Webster dictionary online yields four definitions that back up this point; describing vacations as an “intermission”, time during which activity is suspended, and a period spent away from home and work in travel or recreation.

Vacation (va · ca · tion) \vā-ˈkā-shən, və-\

Improved Definition: Time spent away from work engaged in a chosen activity that results in feelings of happiness.

The first key point is the activity outside of work must be chosen by you and not be a chore or task that you are required to do to run your life and household.  The other key point is the activity must lead to your own happiness and what makes someone happy varies greatly among individuals. The goal of taking time off from work and everyday life (I call this a vacation) is to participate in enriching experiences not just at set times of the year but week after week.  So a weekend trip where your hotel reservation gets lost and your partner is sick with a cold the entire time may not meet the new definition of a vacation, but taking an hour for lunch and trying a hip new restaurant with impeccable food and service most certainly does.  Vacations can involve traveling far from home to an exotic destination for a week or two just as much as it can involve choosing to engage in an activity that makes you happy for as little as 30 minutes during the work week.  It is your time, your choice and your happiness that matters.

For those of you work a typical business day shift of 9 to 5, or 8 to 5, or 8 to 6 or perhaps 9 to 6, a lunch hour is an essential but often neglected part of a full day.  Grabbing a bag lunch that you brought from home and eating at your desk tells yourself and your co-workers that nothing is more important than working non-stop, even if it results in diminished productivity.  Too many hard working individuals seem to have forgotten the art and excitement of going out for lunch and enjoying life, if only for an hour.  Even an employee whose day is filled with meetings and fires only they can put out will find that taking a proper lunch hour once or twice a week is something worth putting on your calendar.  You will quickly realize that the benefits flow back to your employer as well, in terms of reduced stress leading to a better attitude, smarter decision making, and higher productivity.

Here are my easy to follow bullet points to taking back your lunch break as vacation time:

On Vacation Time During the Lunch Hour

  • Invite family and friends that work or live nearby to lunch so the conversation that flows is a true break from work
  • Embrace eating out alone as an opportunity to focus on the food (see Slow Food USA movement), and bring a book of your choosing if that makes you happy
  • Visit a local shop, museum, library, or park to see, read, experience and partake in leisurely lunchtime activities
  • Take a walking tour around an interesting area using Google Maps (with street view) to plan the route to exercise your body and as a feast for the senses

By redefining what it means to take vacation time, you can experience the positive effects of a vacation throughout the year and even in the middle of your work day.  Like “real” vacations, choosing to go on vacation during your lunch break makes use of the same planning skills.  Researching, imagining, discovering, and deciding upon a place to go or an activity that will lead to happiness is part of the enjoyment.  Write down your lunchtime vacation ideas as they come to you and create a reminder for yourself to consult this list weekly.  By doing so you will be able to schedule and block out time on your busy work calendar and make all the necessary arrangements to enjoy a memorable and well-earned vacation over lunch.

Happy Traveling…