Americans work a bewildering1,836 hours a year— far more than most of the rest of the world. But they take far less vacation than anyone else.
In 2013 Americans squandered 169 million vacation days, and last year a whopping 42% of working Americans didn’t take a single vacation day.
This is a travesty.
Here are 8 reasons why Americans should take their vacation days.
You are literally throwing money away.
According to the study “All Work and No Pay: The Impact of Forfeited Time Off,” last year, Americans gave up on $US65.6 billion in time-off benefits. What this means for you, as an individual, is that you essentially said thanks but no thanks to $US748. In other words, you did $US748 of free work.
You are hurting the economy.
A study by Oxford Economics found that the economy would gain $US160 billion in total business sales and $US21 billion in tax revenues if American workers actually took all of their PTO. This translates into 1.2 million new jobs across pretty much all industries.
You are being less productive.
Counterintuitively, taking time off actually increases productivity, though the main reason Americans don’t take their days is for fear of looking like slackers.
According to CNN, taking a vacation “can increase performance by 80%.” Even crazier, another study shows that a whopping 91% of senior business leaders totally know that their employees are less productive when they don’t take time off (and that time off boosts workplace morale, retains employees and has health benefits) — and yet, most of them don’t seem to encourage it either.
Mental fatigue is as real as physical fatigue, so just like you need to take a break after exercising, your brain needs regular breaks as well. The same Oxford Economics study reported that a whopping three quarters of workers surveyed said they felt recharged after a vacation, half that they felt more focused, and 41% that they were less stressed.
You are ruining your chances at promotion.
While you might think that working weekends and forfeiting vacation makes you look dedicated and will help you climb the career ladder faster, the opposite holds true. Apparently,
employees who didn’t use their vacation days (those who leave more than 11 days unused, specifically) were 6.5% less likely to get a raise or bonus than their holidaying colleagues.
You are ruining your health.
Have you heard of burnout? This trendy buzzword has steadily become a real — and common — issue, as men and women work longer hours and take fewer days in an effort to look dedicated.
A study found that men at risk for heart disease were 30% more likely to have a heart attack when skipping vacation for five years in a row than those who took a week off each year, but that even just skipping one vacation increased their risk.
Women didn’t fare much better. A different study found that ladies who took days off only once every six years were almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took two vacations a year. Another study found that taking a vacation — no matter how short or how close to home — improved women’s mental health.
According to Karen Matthews of Mind Body Center at the University of Pittsburgh, the body needs time off to regenerate. After surveying 1,399 participants from studies on cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and other diseases, the center found that time spent not working decreased depression, lowered blood pressure, and even meant slimmer waistlines.
You are making yourself miserable.
When you don’t take your PTO, your personal life suffers too. According to a study by Project Time Off, 74% of employees who were encouraged to take their leave reported being “extremely” or “very” happy with their personal relationships with family and friends.
You are stifling your own creativity.
On CNN.com, Robert Kriegel, author of “How to Succeed in Business Without Working So Damn Hard,” says that many workers have their best ideas when they’re away from work, and finally have the time and distance to think outside the box.
You see it as a luxury, when it’s a right and a necessity.
Europeans see their vacation days as a hard-earned right. Americans see it as a luxury they can’t afford. Therein lies the problem.
And ironically, working longer hours and more days doesn’t make Americans any more efficient or productive. In fact, 40+ hour weeks diminish returns, which becomes apparent when looking at countries like Germany, who get more done in fewer hours.
Long story short: take a vacation America. You deserve it.
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