Japan Wants Workers to Take More Vacation — Here’s Why We Should All Follow Suit

Doesn’t this hammock look a lot more pleasant than your office desk chair? (Photo: Flickr/Travel Stock Photos)

Japan has a new directive for its workforce: Take more vacation.

According to a Bloomberg report, the country’s parliament is looking to slash on-the-job hours and push its workforce to take more time off.

Overwork-related death has been a consistent problem in Japan. Workers clocked an average of 173 hours in overtime in 2014, and on-the-job stressors were factors in 2,323 suicides, according to 2013 data.

The nation currently has a whopping 16 public holidays and doles out roughly 18 days of paid leave per year to its workers, but it’s not enough to curb the issue. The Japanese government wants to reduce the number of employees working more than 60 hours a week from 9 percent to 5 percent by 2020, and get its workforce to take more than 70 percent of its paid leave instead of just 40 percent.

Japan isn’t the only country with an overwork issue. A 2015 survey conducted by Oxford Economics showed that Americans leave roughly $224 billion worth of paid vacation time on the books.

Furthermore, of those who have jobs offering paid vacation in the U.S., 41 percent of workers do not plan to use it. According to a Vox analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data, 80 percent of the workforce once took a yearly weeklong vacation; today, just 56 percent do.

Why are we forgoing our benefits? According to Project Time Off, we’re a nation of “work martyrs.”We come into the office sick, wear unused vacation days like badges of honor, and have the intense need to be seen at our desks early and often.

Related: How To Stay Well In A Room Full Of Sick People

While the hard-working mindset might seem like a quality asset, taking a breather from work is actually good for your health and happiness. According to a 2010 study, taking a relaxed vacation boosted travelers happiness pre-trip and upon return. Research involving Wisconsin women showed that those taking vacation twice a year were happier in their marriages and less depressed, tired, and tense than those taking vacation only once every two years.

We also know that taking a time-out is good for your heart, reducing risk of mortality. A study from Psychosomatic Medicine showed that men who skipped out on vacation five years running were 30 percent more likely suffer a heart attack. Similarly, the Framington Heart Study showed that women taking a vacation once every six years were eight times more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than women taking two vacations per year.

Today’s takeaway lesson: Please, do use your vacation time.

Related: How to Actually Use Up Those Vacation Days