The Importance Of Taking Vacation
When my husband and I were dating, we both worked at the same company. Like most couples, we had differences of opinions about the usual topics such as taste in music, movies, books and (what I considered the most absurd discussion), NOT taking vacations. I, personally, used every single ounce of vacation hours I could….right down to the minute. If the company gave me 2 weeks, you can bet I squandered each and every one of those days away! I didn’t actually have to go anywhere as long as it wasn’t to the office! He, on the other hand, rolled his vacation days over UNUSED. He HATED taking time off! What? This was such a hot button issue for us. You work so hard! Why not take the time off that your employer allows?!?! Ludicrous! Now, after being married for 10 years, (we agree a little more on movies and books) but with vacation, it’s still the same old argument! It’s like pulling teeth to get him to take time off work. Why unwind at home or lie on a beach when you can fritter your life away in your cubicle like the workaholic rock star? Ugh. Who doesn’t want to have a vacation?!
That’s why I was surprised to read a report that suggested that an indifference to—or perhaps even fear of—taking vacation isn’t just limited to just my husband. According to the report, put out by the U.S. Travel Association, 4 in 10 American workers allow some of their paid vacation days to go unused and expire—even though 96 percent of workers claim to see the virtue in taking time off. Another report, from 2013, found that workers were letting an average of 3.2 vacation days expire, unused.
Even more revealing are the reasons respondents gave for leaving paid time off on the table. The four reasons cited the most are the dread of returning from a vacation to piles of work (40 percent), the belief that no one will be able to step in and do their job for them while they’re gone (35 percent), not being able to afford it (33 percent) and the fear of being seen as replaceable (22 percent). I was shocked. These are the EXACT reasons my husband gives me every time I bring up the subject of taking time off. Seems he isn’t alone in his way of thinking after all!
“Americans suffer from a work martyr complex,” Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “In part, it’s because ‘busyness’ is something we wear as a badge of honor. But it’s also because we’re emerging from a tough economy and many feel less secure in their jobs. Unfortunately, workers do not seem to realize that forfeiting their vacation time comes at the expense of their overall health, well-being and relationships.”
But how do we change this culture? Similar studies have highlighted the other cost of all those unused vacation days to employees—and companies. According to internal research by audit firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young), employees who use more vacation days end up with better performance reviews. Taking vacations can also help slow down employee turnover, saving companies the cost and effort of recruiting and training new hires. Other research has linked vacation time to increased worker productivity.
It’s really too bad that vacation / time off isn’t mandatory by employers. It needs to be embraced by management and employees alike. Time away from the office SHOULD provide a release from the work grind and a way to reduce stress – to enjoy life a bit! Decompressing from the work tension and coming back renewed with energy sounds like a win-win to me. Maybe I’m wrong about taking time off but I don’t think so. I agree with Ernst & Young. Maybe all that extra working isn’t making you a superstar — it’s making you a liability.