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Vacation Time: Don’t Let it Go to Waste

662 million days.

That’s how much vacation time Americans let go to waste in 2017. More than half of Americans (54%) failed to use all of their vacation time, and the results have broader implications than just fewer visits to the beach and a reduction in backyard BBQs.

Why Vacation Matters

Vacation is more than just a chance to explore hobbies and spend time with family (though both are important). A true vacation is a mental break from work that allows for more innovation when one returns. Without this kind of rest, employees are more prone to burnout and less likely to work at their optimal abilities when they are on the job.

What’s more, employees know that vacations matter. Even though so many people let their vacation time expire without using it, 96% of them reported that paid time off was an important factor in their jobs. If people know that vacations are important and they want them, why aren’t they using them?

Why Vacations are Challenging to Take

Forbes explored the phenomenon to try to answer this question. While they found that some of the blame lies in fewer positions offering vacation in the first place, the more pernicious reason has to do with subtle shifts in how we view work. More and more people are being paid based on the tasks they complete, so they see time off as work delayed. In other words, taking time off just shifts their responsibilities into the future, compounding the amount of work they’ll need to do when they return.

What’s more, even those who do take vacation time (often in short bursts to avoid the work pile up) are likely to continue to do work remotely while they’re “off.” The ease of connecting via email and remote computing makes true time off a luxury that is hard to access. The chime of the inbox is just too much pressure for many workers to avoid.

What Can Be Done

In order to give workers the kind of break they truly need to return refreshed, energized, and ready to give it their all at work, companies need to shift the culture around vacations by promoting time off and encouraging workers to truly disconnect while they’re away. Finding ways to cover workplace responsibilities to prevent employees from returning to a mountain of work would also make them more likely to use their vacation time in the first place.

Vacations are also somewhat contagious. If influential employees talk about their own use of vacation time and its benefits, it will have an effect on those around them, creating a sense that a vacation is truly a well-deserved break rather than a shiny illusion too burdensome to reach.

As you consider the importance of well-rested employees, keep AMA Executive Conference Centers in mind for your next meeting in Atlanta, New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco.