Don't Let Your Vacation Days Slip Away | Omega

We are working harder than ever before and taking less time off, despite research that shows skipping vacation is not good for the company or our health.

Call it martyrdom. Call it work-a-holism. Call it what you like. The fact is, Americans are taking fewer vacation days than ever before. A recent study shows that Americans basically work for free for about one week per year.

Why is this happening? According to the Oxford Economics Study, people are less likely to take their vacation time because they have heavy workloads, are pressured by management, and fear losing their job.

The U.S. Travel Association estimates that more than 30 percent of people do not control their own paid time off (PTO). Research from Travel Effect reveals workers receive negative, mixed, or no messages at all from their employers regarding taking PTO.

The Association also found people who work for companies that offer to roll over unused PTO are less likely to use all of their vacation time, as compared to those at companies with a “use it or lose it” policy.

The biggest challenge people seem to face when considering taking a vacation is the fear of returning to a mountain of work because “no one else at the company can do it.” The second biggest is the belief that they cannot afford a vacation.

While most companies have traditional vacation packages, some are beginning to reshape their policies. Netflix, for example, takes pride in their “freedom and responsibility culture,” which encourages "adult-like behavior" and asks employees to take responsibility for everything from getting work done, to taking the vacation they need, to spending Netflix's money as if it were their own. Virgin has an unlimited vacation time policy, a benefit also offered by Foursquare and Tumblr.

Take Time for Your Health

Ironically, not taking a vacation is harmful to both you and your employer. American businesses are recognizing excessive stress costs them approximately $300 billion a year, according to research from the World Health Organization.

“Underutilized time off is a monstrous missed opportunity, not only for American workers and their families, but also for employers and the broader economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We seem to be wired to put the pedal to the metal, but there are also benefits to tapping the brakes.”

There are recognized health benefits to taking a break. Those surveyed for the Travel Effect study said that taking time off helped them to relax and recharge, and also made them happier. Taking time away from work can also reduce stress.

In the Framingham Heart Study, women who took at least two yearly vacations lowered their risk for coronary heart disease or heart attack. A SUNY Oswego study showed that men also lowered their risk of heart attack by 30 percent by taking a yearly vacation.

A little sunshine can go a long way to boost a sense of well-being, so for those who live in a location with short winter days, it's especially important to take a vacation. Sunlight and Vitamin D have been found to boost health and immune support, as well as prevent disease.

Commit to taking all your vacation days this year. Do it for your health—and tell your boss your doing it for the company, too.

© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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