I’ll be honest, today’s post is half rant, half advice. Still I believe it contains an important message so bear with me. Today we’re talking about the importance of taking your vacation at work.
I Receive a Decent Amount of Vacation
My employer has a fairly liberal vacation policy, its one of the better perks they offer. How good? Well I started at 3 weeks of vacation not including holidays. New hires these days start with 4 weeks. Vacation increases with years of service, maxing out somewhere around 6 weeks a year. Mind you as noted this is exclusive of 9 holidays a year. Now before you all start asking me where I work and come join me note I do not get sick days so this is it.
Limited Roll Over Capability
I also am allowed to roll over vacation to the next year in limited quantities. After those quantities are exceeded however, the individual is out of luck. They essentially stop earning vacation. So there is obviously a real incentive to take your vacation before reaching the limit rather than lose it. Note my employer neither encourages or discourages people from taking their vacation.
All My Coworkers are Losing Vacation Time
And yet not a day goes by I do not have a conversation with someone who is losing vacation time because they have not taken enough. It seems to cover all age groups as well. The new hires that get 4 weeks a year are just as likely to be losing vacations as the grizzly veteran with 6. So what gives?
Not Just My Coworkers Are Skipping Vacation
For this post I did a little digging which brought me to a survey by glassdoor.com. They found the average worker takes about half of their vacation each year. Even those who do take vacation seem to be working on them. The same survey found that 66% report working while they are on vacation. So what gives?
Even Those With Non At Risk Jobs are Skipping Vacation
I seriously doubt this is mostly because people fear they will lose their jobs. On the whole there are more jobs available then workers. Hitting closer to home I see just as many lifers at my company skipping vacation as newbies. Given my company hasn’t done layoffs in decades I seriously doubt these folks are sweating they might be laid off if they take a week they are entitled.
Skipping Vacation Won’t Help You Stand Out
Early in my career I didn’t take significant amount of vacation. I thought it would make me stand out in the organization as a go getter. The thing is it has had no impact on my trajectory. In fact the stress may have even hurt my career by lowering my productivity.
Since that time I have increased my vacation time to take my full allotment each year. I roll 2 weeks each year which I have left over from ten years ago when I did not take the time. My career trajectory has climbed faster while taking more vacation then before. In other words, not taking vacation does not make you stand out in your career. Certainly not when 50 percent of your peers are doing the same thing.
Even Those Not Climbing the Ladder Skip Vacation
Either way I doubt either of these apply to the majority of people. After all I even see individuals with no desire to advance beyond their current role in essentially lifer positions acting similarly.
Reasons Employees Skip Vacations
No, if I do some soul searching, look at some other worker surveys, and talk to my coworkers the general reasons for not taking full vacation seem to mostly relate to the following:
- First, some have intense loyalty to their company and fear they are the only ones that can do their role. I guess they believe if they go on vacation the company will fail without them.
- Second, they fear falling behind. In todays fast pace business world few businesses have true backups for their employees. So if you take off the work is still there growing for you to do when you get back.
- Finally some have loyalty to their coworkers, and fear they will let others down.
To these fears I say hogwash.
Let’s first address the lack of keeping the company running. On Thursday as I walked my way out the door for a week and a half vacation someone said to me “how will we survive the week you are gone”. You know what, they survived before I joined the company and they will survive after. If the company can’t survive without your presence for 5 days your manager has done a poor job of planning as the first thing a manager should do is always have contingency plans incase you walk out the door to another employer. Besides, your company is not going to be loyal to you if layoffs need to come around, so why should you kill yourself all the time. (See below for how you are killing yourself if you don’t take vacations.)
Skipping Vacation Raises the Bar on Your Expected Work
Addressing falling behind let me level with you as a former manager. As a manager I assigned work to my employees based on what I expected they would complete. How did I determine what they would complete given each person works to a different level? Based on their prior quarter output. So you know what? As long as you take regular vacations your workload will likely be structured by any good boss to account for your vacation. If you never take vacations, you will likely be loaded up and the change in your vacation habits is what will cause you problems. The key is to be consistent about taking your vacation!
Feeling Bad About Impact to Your Coworkers is Legit, but Short Sighted
Finally there are your coworkers. Honestly this is the hardest reason for me to shrug off. I hear you, I hate for my coworkers to have to pickup my slack. But… I only hate it because other people in my organization do not take vacation. If they took their vacation as well I would feel more like it was reciprocation. So the key is to start a trend where your whole organization takes vacation. That train has to start with someone, why not you? Otherwise you are just perpetuating everyone’s downfall by maintaining the status quo.
So why should you take your vacation?
- Taking a low stress vacation can lead to more energy when you return. Say you have a very hard busy job. Even if you enjoy it you can ultimately suffer burn out if you go at it all the time. A vacation can give you the respite and added vigor to go back and achieve greater things.
- Planning for a trip can increase happiness. Surprisingly studies have found that the planning portion of a trip increases happiness as we anticipate. Unfortunately it also found that after the vacation happiness returns to normal quickly. Still the happiness from the planning can be worth it
- Several medical studies have shown decreased risk of heart disease and other health related problems resulting in death for those who take vacations. How are you going to support your coworkers if your dead?
- Your relationships may improve through vacations. There has been some evidence of increased depression and lower marital satisfaction among women who do not take frequent vacations. Is letting down your spouse more or less important than your coworkers?
- Your management and HR believe it will lead to increased productivity. Numerous surveys interviewing managers and HR show they believe workers returning from vacation are more productive. Furthermore studies do show evidence of real improvements in productivity for those who take vacations
So let’s see. Vacations keep you alive, make you happier, improve your relationships, and increase your energy. They have little to no true cost except what is in your head. Readers, I want to hear from you if you are not taking your full vacation allotment each year. Do you have a reason I missed? Does any of the data on this page potentially change your decisions?