The Importance of Using Vacation Time
With countless emails, projects, and tasks at hand, it’s easy to get caught up in the constant rhythm of work. Taking a vacation may seem like a luxury for many individuals, employers and small business owners, and taking time off can often create more stress because of all the work that needs to get done. But what if using your vacation time is actually good for all involved? It turns out there are many benefits to both vacationers and their workplaces that come from taking time off, such as an increase in work productivity, self-restoration, and employee morale.
Americans are not great at taking vacations. In 2015, more than 55% of American workers did not use all their vacation time which adds up to a stunning 658 million unused vacation days for the year. The average U.S employee in the private sector receives only ten paid vacation days and six paid holidays per year, while a minimum of 20 days of paid vacation per year is required in European countries. Second only to Koreans, workers in the United States put in more hours per week than everyone else in the world. This is not surprising given the Gallup poll that shows 50% of U.S workers put in more than 40 hours a week. What is surprising, however, is that so many vacation days go unused in the U.S. when the American Psychological Association reports that 70% of Americans feel work-related stress.
In contrast, Europeans are still very productive while also finding the time to vacation. For instance, France is ranked second for productivity per hour worked, yet the country has generous vacation policies. Germany ranks highest for employee productivity while having a policy in place that requires shorter working hours. People in the Netherlands work the least amount of hours, but the country ranks near the top for global happiness and is strong economically. Americans can learn the value of vacationing from Europeans who take time off, work fewer hours, and still rank high in productivity.
The many benefits of using your vacation time
There are many compelling reasons to reconsider your decision to sacrifice the vacation time you’ve earned. It has been found that well-rested employees can improve productivity. The Harvard Business Review reports that people who return from vacation rested can improve their productivity by 31%, increase sales by 37%, and even triple revenue earnings. By taking a break from work, you clear your mind and become more engaged, energized, and productive.
If increasing your productivity is not convincing enough, here’s another reason why taking time off is important: it can enhance your health. Studies show that vacation time may decrease heart disease. As found by the Framingham Heart Study, men who did not take a vacation in several years were 30% more likely to have heart attacks, and women who only vacationed once in six years or more were eight times more likely to develop heart disease than frequent vacation-goers. This is particularly note-worthy, considering heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the U.S. Furthermore, vacations can improve your mental health. Having downtime away from work has been shown to decrease depression and lessen stress. As you can see from these findings, fun, relaxation, and enjoyment do your body and mind good!
Employees who use their vacation time also have a greater chance of getting a raise or promotion, according to the research of Project Time Off. It was found that employees who used their vacation days were 6.5% more likely to receive a raise or promotion, because taking time off can improve your overall work performance. Additionally, in your absence, your employers and co-workers may gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of your important contributions, which could also lead to advancement.
Bosses need vacations too!
Employers: not only should you encourage your employees to use their vacation time, but you should also consider taking some time off! Vacations don’t just revive and rejuvenate employees – the same goes for the CEO, small business owner, or entrepreneur. When employers take time off, they avoid burnout that can negatively affect their business, and they can gain a new perspective of their business. Ideas, inspirations, and creative innovations can result from a much-needed break.
Plus, taking time away from your business is also a great way to help build and strengthen your employees’ skill sets. Employees take on new responsibilities when the boss is away, which empowers them and enhances their personal growth. By taking well-deserved vacations, you can strengthen your workforce in the process. That’s what we call a win-win!
Leave your work at work where it belongs
In order to maximize the benefits of taking vacation time, it is important to completely unplug while away from work. For the vacationer, this means creating an email auto-reply that says you’re on vacation, ensuring your responsibilities are covered by colleagues so you can vacation worry-free, and making a conscious decision to avoid checking email or doing work of any kind.
This type of tech-free vacation helps foster a good work/life balance, reduce unnecessary stress, improve mental clarity, and promote good health. It is also worth noting that the ramifications of not going tech-free while on vacation may include eye irritation, disrupted sleep patterns, poor concentration, and less motivation in the office. Employers should not only encourage their workforce to take some tech-free time off, but also lead by example and put this concept into practice themselves. After all, how can a vacation be relaxing and refreshing when your work comes along with you?
Try an 8-Day Vacation or “Staycation”
When planning a vacation, the length is an important consideration. Researchers have found that an ideal length for a vacation is about 8-10 days, and extending the vacation for longer did not increase the benefits. It was reported that 1-1 ½ week vacations that can occur more frequently are recommended over taking longer, less frequent vacations.
Although many consider traveling while on vacation, “staycations” can be just as beneficial and rewarding. Taking a staycation means you will be spending time close to home, so it is important that you make plans, ignore the chores, and take a respite from your daily routine just as you would if you were away. Try taking daytrips to nearby places and thinking like a tourist during your time away from the office to make your staycation fun and worthwhile!
Every small business has times of year that are busier than others, like the summer tourist season, the year-end audit, tax season, or the holidays. Whenever your busiest time is, try to schedule some time off right before and right after. The perks of vacation time for yourself, your business, and the pure sake of enjoyment are just too good to pass up!
Vacation policies and employee well-being is just one of the many things looked at through the Root360 survey. Take 15 minutes today to take your assessment and learn more about how to make your business truly sustainable!
Leah Soloway is a rising junior at University of New England in Biddeford, Maine and is pursuing a double-major in Business and Environmental Studies. She is originally from Brunswick, Maine, and is interested in sustainable business.