Guest post by Drew Heikkila
Vacations have a certain stigma attached to them. Yes, we know that they’re there for us to use, but that won’t stop us from feeling guilty when we use them—if we use them at all. Who’s going to fill in for us when we’re gone? On top of that, even with PTO, vacations can be expensive. Where’s the net benefit in making a week’s worth in vacation pay if you’re going to end up spending double that on the vacation itself?
It’s not uncommon to sum up vacation time that way here in the U.S. Bloomberg reported employment firm Hudson’s survey findings that over 50 percent of American workers fail to utilize all of their vacation days, with 30 percent using less than half and 20 percent using only a day or two—and that was in 2007.
In 2009, Bloomberg looked at the topic again and found that, even though the U.S. may tend to view vacations as impedances and distractions from actual work, countries with twice the amount of vacation time generally perform just as competitively, if not more than Americans.
So… maybe we’re doing it wrong here in the states. Maybe we should invest in more vacation time.
The argument for vacations as a means to actually save money are stronger than you might think, especially in an era where on-the-job stress accounts for the number one reason that employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. This comes as no surprise, especially after a Gallop survey reported that 35% of those surveyed said that job-related stress is “interfering with their family or personal time”. But that’s really just the set-up. The real zinger is a CCH Human Resources Management study that showed that more than almost half of all surveyed employees feel more “rested, rejuvenated, and reconnected to their personal lives” as well as feeling “more productive and better about their jobs”.
Wow. So here’s a thought: maybe—just maybe—working yourself 24/7 is not the right thing to do. Perhaps actually getting outside of the office and soaking up the sun on a beach might help your workflow in the long run, and lower your levels of stress.
The biggest opposition to vacation that I’ve heard here in my office is that trips and traveling simply cost too much. The flight, the expensive suite, the fancy steak dinners and champagne brunches , the touring and sightseeing, all of it adds up. I’m sure that sentiment is echoed by plenty of other middle-class workers, especially in a post-2008 America—but honestly, that shouldn’t stop people from taking vacations.
First of all, there are plenty of group vacation and all-inclusive options. I will be the first to say that even though I’m not living lavishly, I am a staunch advocate for vacationing on a budget and am lucky enough to have a group of friends that are as adamant as I am. From day trip packages in New York (definitely recommended), to the group discounts tickets to concerts at The Gorge, I’ve generally always been able to find a deal.
Second, there’s always stay-at-home decompression options. Staycations can help clear your mind and alleviate the stress that piles up like hour-glass sand. Watch movies with your family, shoot the breeze with your friends, and focus on absolutely anything else other than work. Which brings me to my third, and final point…
STRESS IS THE NUMBER ONE REASON FOR LOSS OF JOB PRODUCTIVITY. Employees who are stressed are more angry and irritable, have poorer memory and quality of work, have more of a struggle managing time, and call in to work sick more often. On top of that, stress is one of the biggest invisible killers in the states, putting millions at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. So just remember that your job? Yes it’s important, but it won’t be if you’re dead.
If you’re still wondering whether or not you should be taking your vacation time this year, let me leave you with this: an article detailing how unlimited vacation policies have helped one company become Inc. 500’s #2 fastest-growing software company, while another recorded 200% growth after said policy’s implementation.
If that’s not reason enough to reconsider investing in a vacation, I don’t know what is.
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