The importance of taking time off is well documented. The occasional vacation clears the mind, rejuvenates the spirit, and improves overall health. People who take vacations report being more productive at work, because they are less stressed and lead more balanced lives.
So why do so many Americans fail to use their vacation days? In 2015, 55% of Americans didn’t use all of their vacation days. That amounts to 658 million days of vacation not taken or $61.4 billion in unclaimed job benefits.
A survey done by Project: Time Off and GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communication uncovered several reasons for this.
At the top of the list was fear of returning to a mountain of work (40% of respondents). Along those same lines, the second biggest barrier was the belief that nobody else can do the job (35%). These problems stem from a poor corporate support system in which team members aren’t able or willing to help each other out. Such a scenario also contributes to the problem of people taking the office with them when they go on vacation. It may not be feasible to take a vacation on a whim, but companies should be equipped to let their employees blow off some steam after a big deadline or a major project without the whole system falling apart.
A little further down the list is fear of being seen as replaceable (22%). This speaks to a workplace culture that is found throughout American companies. Employees are treated like corporate assets rather than whole people. As a result, their overall wellbeing and potential for growth within the company is seen as secondary to what they can deliver right now.
Companies do best when they invest in their people, and one vital form of investment is vacation. By giving employees the ability to live full lives that aren’t entirely defined by the workplace, both people and companies benefit.
Some 80% of employees say they would be more likely to use their vacation days if they were encouraged to do so by their bosses. Employees also see that 40% of bosses continue to stay connected to their work while on vacation. This sets a poor example and leads to frustration, feelings of job vulnerability, and fatigue.
Change needs to start at the top. Managers need to take their vacations and encourage their employees to do the same. Bosses should also encourage their team members to take advantage of their other benefits, like personal days, paternity/maternity leave, and sick leave. Making self-care and home life a priority benefits bottom lines, individual happiness, and society as a whole.
So go ahead. Take that vacation. You’ve earned it.