According to a recent report from the U.S. Travel Association, 96 percent of workers see the value in taking time off — but only 60 percent of us actually use up all our vacation time. The rest of us let paid days off expire, unused. Why aren’t we using our earned time?
At The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker shares an anecdote that illustrates this problem:
“A friend recently told me about an automatic email reply she had received from a colleague. It began innocuously enough — ‘I will be out of the office next Monday and Tuesday’ — but it grew more alarming as it went on. ‘Because I have accumulated too many days of paid vacation,’ it said, ‘I have scheduled a trip to Chicago for the weekend in order to use some of them.'”
If that seems like a lot of detailed information for an autoreply, the rest of the report offers some insight into why this worker felt the need to explain in depth.
- Two-thirds of workers say they receive “negative, mixed or no messages” about taking their paid time off. Six percent were outright discouraged from taking their vacation days, while 13 percent received mixed messages, and 48 percent received no messages at all about taking vacation.
- Thirty-two percent said that their employers encouraged them to take their paid time off.
- Seventeen percent said that it was difficult to take their days off, and 20 percent said it was neither easy nor difficult. Sixty-two percent said it was easy to schedule vacation.
- Nineteen percent of senior managers never tell their reports about the benefits of taking time off, and 14 percent do so only once a year.
- Seventy-two percent of bosses say it’s easy to approve PTO requests.
The report’s findings point to an issue with corporate culture, not with corporate policy. Workers who aren’t taking their vacation days could be letting their PTO lapse because of a fear of annoying the boss, even though the majority of managers say that it’s easy to approve vacation days. In other words, the problem is that we think our bosses will judge us for taking our time, even when they won’t.
Pinsker notes that the U.S. Travel Association has a vested interest in encouraging us to take time off, but even so, the message is a good one. Taking vacation can stave off burnout, improve productivity and job satisfaction, and help us manage stress. It’s in your — and your employer’s — best interest to take a break now and then. If you didn’t do so during the dog days of summer, maybe now’s a good time to think about scheduling a few days off.
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