Vacation Should Be Mandatory

03/28/2008 02:48 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

It seems like skipping vacation is far more prevalent in America today than skipping school ever was. Between acquisitions, leadership changes, downsizings, rightsizings and more, there never seems to be a good time to take a break in today's fast-paced business environment. And we're just talking about a week or so -- not the month or more taken by many Europeans.

This reality hit me as I was sitting on my hotel veranda in Turks and Caicos earlier this week, overlooking a gorgeous turquoise blue Caribbean sea, with my daughter happily playing in the sand and my husband winging a hobie cat up onto one hull. Watching them play, I was reminded again how important unplugging and tuning out really is. Not only for the sheer enjoyment we all deserve and should have but because our brains and bodies need to completely reboot every now and then. I've always done some of my best creative thinking while jogging. Vacation is just an even bigger and better opportunity to let my mind wonder and ponder. For me, vacation is: part rest; part relaxation; part exploration and part reconnection - with myself, with family and with friends.

There may be no such thing as an 8-hour day anymore. And, if you're like many people, you may feel you can never afford to take a day off. You may feel the business will fall apart without you. Or, even worse, you may fear your absence will not actually be noticed that much, thus putting into question your actual value. I myself admit that I can find it hard to be truly "off", between long hours at the office and a blackberry for any and all times I happen to be "not working," work today is a bit of an addiction -- for me and many others. But, if you can relate to any of these feelings, it's more important than ever to take a break. No one is or should be irreplaceable and no one should see vacation as something the "wimps" do. Stop sweating it. Plan well and then just take off and don't look back. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. You don't even have to go anywhere. But, if you employer gives you paid vacation, use it! It's important. In fact, I think employers should help out by making it mandatory that we all use our vacation days. We'd be better people and better employees if we did.

Perry Yeatman is the SVP of International Corporate Affairs and Global Issues Management for Kraft Foods and co-author of the award-winning book Get Ahead by Going Abroad: A Women's Guide to Fast Track Career Success.