Is It Time to Use Your Vacation Time?

by Marcianne Kuethen
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Are you overdue in using vacation time at work? Did you know that Americans have stockpiled over 662,000,000 unused vacation days annually? What’s worse, according to ProjectTimeOff.com, “employees forfeited 206 million vacation days in 2016.These days could not be rolled over, could not be paid out, were not banked, or used for any other benefit—they were purely lost. These days add up to $66.4 billion in forfeited benefits across the workforce or $604 per worker.”

Vacation Time Is Being Misused

Even more difficult to digest, the 2017 Relaxation Report survey also found that 2 in 3 workers are taking vacation time–but many aren’t using it to relax. Instead, 54% of Americans spend vacation time dealing with obligations such as taking care of sick loved ones, attending doctor or dentist appointments, or dealing with family emergencies. (Isn’t that what sick time is for?)

Ironically, a significant majority of U.S. employees believe in the concept of using vacation time. They know that when they relax, recharge, and get the opportunity to do something they enjoy, they’re better equipped to concentrate and produce on the job. And they aren’t alone. 91% of business leaders believe that when employees take vacation time, they return recharged, renewed, and ready to get back to work productively. It seems as if everyone believes that taking vacation time makes employees happier, more productive, healthier both emotionally and physically, more relational, and more positive at work…so why aren’t people taking their vacations?

Using Vacation Time Creates Too Much Stress

According to the survey and other experts, living under loads of stress has become an accepted way of life. People aren’t using their vacation time because they have too much work to get done. Plus, they don’t want to return to a mountain of work. Many feel that no one else can do the job. Some believe that their senior positions prohibit them from taking time off. Others just want to show that they’re completely dedicated. About two-thirds of employees feel that their companies are either silent about or even discourage using vacation time.

Stress Breeds Stressful Behavior

That amounts to a lot of people under a tremendous amount of stress! And to fuel it, people drink caffeine all hours of the day. This occurs, of course, in spite of the fact that caffeine lingers in the body for up to 8 hours and can literally ruin a good night’s sleep. Likewise, alcohol consumed within 3 hours of going to bed can interfere with sleep, yet over half of Americans indulge in a nightcap before bedtime. Many people also watch the news before they go to bed. With today’s political climate, this actually causes more anxiety. It’s no surprise, then, that 49% of Americans don’t come to work well-rested.

Vacations Reduce Stress

Is there a solution to this workplace dilemma? The 2017 Relaxation Report discovered that 66% of Americans agree that taking a cruise would be the best way to relax and experience life. To no one’s surprise, the survey was conducted by Princess Cruises–but, hey, they’re not wrong! Cruising is definitely one of the least stressful ways to vacation.

You Can Help Yourself and Others

While not everyone can afford a cruise, people can start taking vacation time–and using it to actually relax. But it’s going to take effort in 3 areas, says ProjectTimeOff.com:

1. Managers need to start using their weight of influence to encourage taking vacation time. 76% of employees said they’d be inclined to use their vacation time if they felt their boss would support it. If you’re a boss, realize that your lack of encouragement may eventually cause an employee to burn out. Give people permission to achieve the work/life balance necessary to keep on being productive at work. And employees, know that using vacation time will benefit you and your company in the long run. Just do it!

2. Organizations must communicate that taking time off has value. In order to remove the stigma employees sense about using their vacation time, companies will need to communicate consistently and regularly. At Amtec, we suggest making it a part of your company culture to work hard and play hard. If relaxation ends up increasing your bottom line as the statistics indicate, it only makes sense to encourage full use of everyone’s vacation time–executives, managers, and direct reports.

3. Employees must make a plan to use their time off. Not only are planners more likely to take a longer break, but those who do feel a greater sense of happiness, probably from anticipating what’s up ahead. In fact, employers should take note that “Americans who plan are happier, in some cases by double digits, with their company and job, relationships, physical health and well-being, financial situation, and more.” All the more reason to encourage workers’ using vacation time–happy employees are more likely to stay loyal and remain productive!

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