5 Reasons Why You Need a Vacation

CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- A business owner is never off duty. When you're the one in charge, working nights and weekends is part of the deal.

But that doesn't mean you should never take a break. Stepping away for a week or two just might be the secret to keeping your business -- and yourself -- in good shape. All too often, though, business owners deny themselves the vacations they grant their employees.

Getting away for a week or two just might be the secret to keeping your business -- and yourself -- in good shape.

In Europe, workers regularly enjoy two- or three-week summer breaks. Meanwhile, workaholics in corporate America pride themselves on how much of their vacation allotment goes unused. Even when they do go on vacation, many managers stay in constant email and cellphone contact, still running the show from their oceanfront hotel room to prove indispensible.

But when it's your own business, you really are indispensible, right? If you think your business can't survive your absence, think again. Here are the Top Five reasons you should get away this summer:

1. You'll live longer.
The Framingham Heart Study, a decades-long research project into the causes and risk factors for heart disease, found a strong link between vacations and longevity. Even after allowing for a number of other lifestyle factors, men who took more vacations were the ones who lived longest. Go away on vacation at least once a year and your risk of death falls by 20% compared with those who keep working.

2. You'll strengthen your family.
A number of psychological studies have shown that buying experiences -- such as a vacation -- increases happiness more than buying possessions. The memories of those experiences also last longer than the satisfaction we get from buying a car or flat-screen TV. Go back to your own childhood for a minute: Can you list all the presents you got for each birthday? Probably not. But chances are you can still have clear memories from family trips taken decades ago.

Are you creating those memories for your own children? Travel strengthens family bonds by creating shared memories. A vacation now is an investment in your family's future.

3. You'll come back a more effective leader.
We all know that intractable problems need a fresh eye. Yet we still come into the office, day after day, thinking we'll be hit with a sudden burst of creativity amid the usual routines.

The only way to get a new perspective is to get away. That means at least a week off (not a quickie three-day weekend) with minimal office contact. Only once you've cleared your brain will there be room for new, creative ideas to flower.

4. It can kick-start your succession planning.
Do you have a succession plan? If you're like many business owners, the answer is an embarrassed "no." It's one of those things we say we'll get around to eventually, when retirement looms. But grooming a successor isn't just about planning for your retirement. It's also an insurance policy should something keep you from work for an extended time. A car accident or a sick family member could keep you out of the office unexpectedly -- do you want your company to flounder while you're gone?

It's simply smart business to train one or two people to take over your duties if you're gone. A vacation is the perfect time to give someone a trial run to see if they're up to the task.

5. It will put your work and yourself in perspective.
Very few people are truly indispensible in a large corporation. Many employees keep checking in with the office while on vacation simply through narcissism ("Nothing will get done without me!") or fear ("If I don't call in, the boss will think I'm expendable and I'll lose my job").

Business owners, by contrast, may very well be indispensible when it comes to their company's operations. But a business that crumbles when its owner takes a week off isn't built on very strong foundations. Major projects may have to be put on hold temporarily, and a few potential sales may slip away. But no company's future is determined by what happens over one week. Time off may help you see that your life is more than work.

Hopefully, a week or so away will help you see that your life consists of more than work. But it might also confirm that your business is, in fact, something that brings great satisfaction. If so, it will make coming back from vacation a whole lot easier.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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