It might be a pretty straightforward question. But wait, when was the last time you took a vacation? Bad news if you’re from the United States: It was probably too long ago. Unlike most other developed nations, we get zilch when it comes to legally mandated time off, and we’re less likely to actually take the time off our employers voluntarily grant us. There are lots of good reasons why that needs to change — and your boss might want to take notice of them.
Of course, it’s not enough that Americans tend to get fewer paid vacation days than anyone else (the average worker receives about 10 days, at an employer’s discretion, compared to the 20 or more required days of most European nations). We also don’t take the vacation days that we do have. In 2015, 41 percent of American workers didn’t take a single day of vacation, and 44 percent of those who did reported working during their time off. It’s no fun to work nonstop, but there are more insidious problems than that. The culture of working without rest can end up having a major impact on your physical and mental health.
Perhaps it seems obvious that taking time off from work helps your overall well-being, but it’s nice to see that there’s some real-world data to back that up. According to a 2005 study from the Medical University of Vienna, frequent annual vacations slashed mortality rates for men at risk for coronary heart disease and reduced depression as well. And although it might sometimes feel like your time off is just a temporary reprieve from the daily slog, another study from 2000 showed that physical and mental health complaints were still down more than a month after returning from a trip.
That’s all great when it comes to your personal health, but your employer might not be so sympathetic to your need for peace of mind. Maybe they should, though. Vacation isn’t just good for workers; it’s good for companies. According to Project Time Off, workers who take time off both perform better and stay at their jobs longer. Every manager can appreciate that. Need any further proof? Look to Europe, where more vacation time has been directly linked to increased productivity.
A productivity boost isn’t the only advantage of taking vacation time. It also has a direct financial benefit to the company. When employees don’t take their vacation time, companies might be left on the hook to compensate them if and when those employees move on to their next opportunities.
In 2013, the US Travel Association discovered that, ironically, only 19 percent of their employees were taking all of the vacation time they had been allotted. So they settled on a rather surprising solution: Any employee who used every day available would receive a $500 bonus. Now that’s a nice incentive, but the association probably reaped the greatest benefits of all — they raised the portion of employees taking all of their vacation time from 19 to 91 percent, and saved themselves more than $36,000 in financial liability. Let your workers take a vacation, and you’ll get your own peace of mind. A reason for you to get out of the office.
Check out my related post: Do you need a travel break?