Family enjoys beneficial time-off while on vacation

Raise your hand if you work hard! Yes, lots of us, right? Ok, now hands up if you also vacation hard. Unfortunately, not as many hands are celebrating in the air. So what is happening with our treasured, must-have vacation time? And why is balancing work and vacation so difficult?

According to Project: Time Off’s State of the American Vacation 2018, the American workforce only takes 17 days of vacation per year, and only eight of those days are spent traveling. Furthermore, employees gave up 705 million unused vacation days last year alone! Many of these unused vacation days are forfeited, not rolled over, or cashed out. So when you think about it, employees are donating free workdays to their employers. How, umm, generous?

When over 50% of Americans are choosing to work right through their vacation time, it’s more than themselves who feel the burden. Companies are experiencing overworked, tired, unmotivated employees. These feelings can be contagious, causing an environment and culture that lacks positivity and engagement.

Reasons Why Employees Aren’t Taking Earned Vacations

Work-related challenges had the most influence on Americans’ ability to vacation.

  1. Concerns of appearing less dedicated or even replaceable if they took a vacation
  2. Too heavy of a workload
  3. Lack of coverage to do their job properly when away

Fuzzy Messages

According to Project: Time Off, 40% of employees say they do not think their company wants them to use all the vacation time they earn. Another 54% say they are not sure if their company wants them to talk about their vacation with colleagues when they return. There is a big disconnect here. Actually, executive and senior leaders feel strongly that the company wants them to use all their vacation time and they should talk about their vacation experiences when they return.

So, What’s the Good News?

Now let’s move on to the silver lining in this story. According to Project: Time Off, America’s vacation behavior is starting to change, and for the better! The latest State of American Vacation results show improvement in America’s work + play culture. While a complete transformation is not yet at hand, the beginnings of change may be.

Here’s the Good News!

  1. Employers are showing signs of having more encouraging vacation cultures
  2. Employees are feeling more confident about using the time they earn
  3. Employees are understanding the importance of vacations for their health and well being

According to Project: Time Off, the companies encouraging vacation may realize it is a competitive advantage. Employees who feel supported in taking vacation are happier with their job, company, relationships, and health, allowing them to bring their best selves to the job when they are on the clock.

Is a “Workcation” Ok?

America’s demanding work culture has given rise to the idea of a “workcation.” Technology makes it so easy to work from just about anywhere, so what is the harm in checking your email on your cell phone, or scheduling conference calls out by the pool? Is this new trend becoming more popular? Or does it hinder our ability to relax fully? “Is the “workcation” detracting from the vacation you were going to have, or is it enabling the vacation you otherwise wouldn’t have had?” questioned Kenneth Matos, Senior Director of Research at the Families and Work Institute, at the Wall Street Journal.

Man works on his laptop while on vacation.

Strong Correlation Between Travel and Happiness

Americans who are taking most of their vacation days to travel, report dramatically higher rates of happiness than those using little to none of their time for travel. Those using their vacation time to travel also reported being much happier in their current jobs and not feeling the “burnout” that others may feel. Finally, those vacationing are reported to be more successful in their jobs, receiving promotions, raises, and bonuses.

What Does Life Look Like Without a Vacation?

Nearly a quarter of Americans have not taken a vacation in the last year, and 12% reported three years since their last holiday. Those who aren’t vacationing are concerned about the lack of relaxation and fun in their lives, and missing out on making memories.

A vacation-less world gets to the very heart of why Americans want to use time off in the first place. The reported top three reasons people travel is truly telling about what matters.

  • 85% report seeing their child excited about an experience is reason enough to get away
  • 82% want the opportunity to relax and reduce stress (Isn’t it rather odd this isn’t 100%?)
  • 81% want to make vacation memories

Be a Planner!

Travel is the clearest way to achieve the benefits of having time off. But it’s up to YOU to plan ahead and schedule travel in your busy calendar. Planning travel is one of the easiest ways to boost happiness. So, having a trip scheduled will certainly bring a little hop in your step around the office, and help to spread the contagious feelings of a positive vacation culture.

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