Use Your Vacation Days!

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Did you know that Americans left a total of 658 million vacation days unused in 2015? That accumulates to be $272 billion left on the table! During the holiday season, enjoy the benefit of using your paid time off. Take some time off during the holidays to shop for your loved ones, spend time with family, allocate time for safe travels to your holiday destinations. Give yourself some much needed R&R to keep your mental health strong through the new year.

The inability to take time off shed’s light on one of America’s greatest work cultural pitfalls, where we often define “hard work” quantitatively not qualitatively. According to Project Time Off, 93% of managers say they actively encourage time off, yet 59% of them left time on the table last year. Additionally, 43% of managers have identified that they mention vacation to their employees only once a year or less.

Consequentially, more than two-thirds of non-manager employees hear negative or mixed messages about using their vacation time and do not feel encouraged to take time off. There are many reasons why employees choose not to take time away from the office. Fear of missing out on a promotion, fear of falling behind at work, or simply wanting to save vacation days for another time are all common reasons not to take time off. By not using the PTO your company offers, you are leaving money on the table, and are costing your company in productivity and mind capacity, especially around the holidays!

According to the Human Resources Management Association (HRMA), here are six great reasons why you should be using your vacation days:

1. You’ll be relaxed, refreshed and more productive

Vacations help you recharge, especially during the holiday season where your mind is elsewhere from work. While some employees might feel that it looks better to keep working hard, or that the office won’t survive without them, that isn’t realistic. You need time to refresh and relax, and taking that time will only help you remain more productive in the long run.

2. You (likely) won’t lose out on that promotion

Many individuals cite losing their chance of a promotion is a key reason why they forgo their PTO. However, according to Project Time Off, there is no evidence that avoiding vacation improves one’s chances for a bonus or a raise. Furthermore, taking some time away from work might just help others see how important your contributions are! Relying on others and taking time to plan how your duties will be covered in your absence also strengthens your team and helps build bonds between co-workers.

3. It’s good for your health

Beyond simply helping you recharge and feel less stressed, studies suggest that taking a vacation is also key for your overall health and wellness. Men who don’t take vacations are more likely to suffer from heart disease, while women who don’t take time off are more likely to suffer from depression. As a bonus, staying healthy means you’ll take fewer sick days, saving costs for your company. In other words, taking care of yourself is good for your employer as well.

4. Not taking vacation days costs you in the long run

Not taking time to relax can cost you in more ways than one. If your employer has a “use-it or lose-it” policy when it comes to vacation days, you could be missing out on more than just the health and relaxation benefits of taking time off. According to Project: Time Off, employees in the US alone are letting go of $52.4 billion in combined benefits every year.

5. It can cost your company too

For companies that allow employees to rollover vacation time, unused paid time off can leave a big liability on company balance sheets. Roughly $65.6 billion in unused paid vacation days were carried over from 2014 to 2015. While that isn’t an immediate worry, it’s certainly a potential burden on a business’ financial health and outlook. Similarly, taking time off can help companies retain talent and keep turnover costs down. SHRM states that 78% of HR directors found that employees who took more vacation days reported higher job satisfaction.

6. Time off can stimulate creativity

Taking time away from the office can help get creative juices flowing, and may even help you come up with your next big idea. Bill Gates is famous for his think weeks, but even simply taking some time away from one’s regular routine can do the trick. For example, Kevin Systrom came up with the idea for Instagram on vacation in Mexico, while Drew Houston was traveling when he thought of the idea for Dropbox.

Enjoy the holiday season by taking your well-deserved vacation days! Be sure to tell your boss you are wanting to take time off in advance and refer to your employee handbook or human resources department if you are unsure of your company’s vacation policy. If the stress of the holiday season is becoming a burden on your mental or financial health, counseling is available through your company’s EAP benefit. Click here to log into the employee portal.

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