With July 4th just around the corner, now’s the time many Americans are heading out for summer vacations. However, not all of us take advantage of the summer months to use up those paid vacation days. Even worse, many of us who do take the time often aren’t able to reap the benefits because we return to a mountain of work feeling more overwhelmed and exhausted than we did before we left. Is it even worth it?
It definitely is - according to the experts in several articles and studies I’ve been reading. I’ve put together the research for why taking that vacation time is so beneficial not just to you personally but also to your company.
Here’s the business case:
- You pay for it either way: According to Project: Time Off, rolling those unused vacation days over from year to year costs American businesses $224 billion. (See their Hidden Cost of Unused Leave Infographic)
- Vacations save your company money in the long run: According to a 2014 Gallup poll, people who take vacations report higher life (and job) satisfaction. Some benefits to the company of this increased well-being for workers include lower absenteeism and turnover, fewer workplace safety incidents, and possibly even lower healthcare costs due to the positive effects on workers’ mental and cardiovascular health following vacation time.
- Vacations make workers more productive: Jack Zenger and Joseph Friedman conducted a study comparing American executives to European executives with more prolonged vacation time to determine whether vacation time makes workers more productive. They found that “having more vacation time seems to help employees better understand the importance of being impatient for results and getting as much done as possible."
- Managers need to set the example: Ron Friedman emphasizes that it isn’t enough to encourage those who report to us to take time off, leaders and managers have to set the tone. "When managers forgo vacation time, it not only places them squarely on the road to burnout, it also generates unspoken pressures for everyone on their team to do the same. And ignoring the body’s need for rest is not just a poor long-term strategy. It also comes with considerable opportunity cost."
Here’s the personal case:
Most of us probably don’t need to read this list to be convinced to relax on a beach for a week, but in case you’re having trouble justifying your vacation time, here are some personal (and professional) benefits of doing so.
- Staying home will cost you: According to Project: Time Off, Americans throw away $52.4 billion each year in unused vacation days. In an HBR article, Shawn Achor puts it this way: "If you’re a salaried employee, and if paid vacation is part of your compensation package, you’re essentially taking a voluntary pay cut when you work instead of taking that vacation time. Why would anyone do that? …Whether or not you take a vacation, you’re still going to have a lot of work to do. Life is finite, and work is infinite.”
- Taking vacations can help you advance your career: In addition to actually increasing your productivity (see study mentioned above), your manager will also perceive you as more productive if you take vacation time. Achor cites research that "taking a vacation can actually increase the likelihood of getting a raise or a promotion.”
- Vacation time will improve your performance at work: Achor states that "to be truly engaged at work, your brain needs periodic breaks to gain fresh perspective and energy.” Friedman points to studies demonstrating that work performance suffers when we work too long without taking time off. Here are some of the vacation time benefits he cites for when you come back to the office refreshed:
- sharpened attention
- mental clarity
- inspired ideas and breakthroughs
- improved reaction time
- improved mood and positivity
- fresh perspectives
- creative problem solving
- Vacations improve your job and life satisfaction: The Gallup poll I mentioned above found that frequency of vacations was a better predictor of well-being than income. According to Friedman, "a regular vacationer earning $24,000 a year is generally happier than an infrequent vacationer earning 5 times as much.”
The benefits of vacations are abundantly clear. Friedman suggests that "perhaps it’s time we considered treating unused vacation days as a valuable metric — one that reflects the inverse of a healthy workplace culture; an indication that a company is suffering from energy mismanagement.” Don’t let this happen to your company - ensure that you are creating a culture that encourages everyone to take much needed time off so that they can come back refreshed, re-engaged, and more satisfied and productive than ever.
Clearly, taking that vacation time is good for you and for your company. So do it, already! Enjoy!