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Does under utilization of vacation time help or hinder an organization?

May 30, 2019

By Susan Chance, courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

As we head into summer most of us are dreaming of taking time off to enjoy the warm weather and the pursuits that come with it. We get excited about having an extra day or two off for the long holiday weekends, but is an extra day or two enough to truly recharge our batteries?

The thought process that we must work more and more to succeed is so pervasive that people rarely stop to think about the negative effect the lack of down time has on our productivity. TGIF is a common refrain in the workplace, but on the weekends, there is a lot of work to do at home between housework, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. So, while we all look forward to our weekends, how much downtime do we really get?

A study by the U.S Travel Association and Project: Time Off show how working too much impacts our work and our well-being. In the study it was estimated that in 2000 U.S. workers took 20.3 days of vacation a year, but in 2015 only 16.2 days were taken. There are many reasons workers shy away from taking time off. Some want to impress their boss, some feel they have to work all the time to get ahead, and some people may fear they will get too far behind in their projects. 

In “The PTO Pressure Report” by Kimble Applications, 19% of respondents felt pressure to not take their time off and more than 25% felt anxious or nervous about requesting time off. The report also showed that 48% of employees are working at least periodically while on vacation. This makes it difficult to truly rest and recharge.

So why should employers care if their employees don’t use their paid time off? After all, the more their employees are at work, the more productive they are, right? Wrong! Past research has shown that the performance and health of employees increases when they take time off. Employees who don’t take their vacation, or who can’t unplug while on vacation suffer more from burnout, thus negatively impacting their productivity. Creativity is another factor that is positively or negatively impacted by the use or non-use of vacation time.

Taking time off can also have a positive impact on compensation. Those who took less than 10 of their vacation days a year were 34.6% likely to receive a raise or bonus, while those who took more than 10 days are 65.4% more likely to receive a raise or bonus. That is a significant difference and should give employers and employees alike pause for letting vacations days go unused.

Employers provide paid time off as a benefit to their employees. Allowing and even encouraging employees to take the time and allowing them to truly unplug while taking time off, is a benefit that gives back to the employer. Time off to relax and get away from it all allows employees to come back to work relaxed, less stressed, more creative, and more energized. As an employer, are you allowing this benefit to benefit your company?

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