In 2015, Americans left 658 million vacation days unused. It’s a problem that has continued to ingrain itself in the American way of life, and it’s only going to get worse. It even has a name — “work martyrdom” — and one of the most troubling reasons for it is feeling guilty about taking paid time off.
Have you ever felt guilty about taking vacation, or made your coworkers feel guilty for taking time off? Well, you shouldn’t. It’s dangerous, and bad for both you and your company. (See also: 7 Ways to Actually Take All Your Vacation Days This Year)
1. Vacation is vital for good health
You wouldn’t want to make your coworkers physically ill, but by guilting them out of their vacation time, you could be contributing to some very serious health risks. The Framingham Heart Study, the world’s longest running study of heart disease, has some frightening statistics on vacation and health. The biggest — that men who failed to take a vacation for two years or more were 30 percent more likely to experience a heart attack than peers who took regular time off.
A Marshfield Clinic study showed that women who took at least two vacations per year were less likely to suffer from depression than those who don’t take time off. Other research has shown that not taking vacation can also lead to higher blood pressure, stress, poor family relationships, and if you’re extremely overworked, even suicide. So, it’s vital to actually encourage coworkers to take time off, especially if they look worn out. (See also: Science Says We NEED to Take a Vacation)
2. Vacation refreshes the mind and body
Research has proved it; when you take a vacation, you are improving your mind and your overall health. And if you work with people who need to be great at their jobs in order to make you and the company thrive, then you should encourage vacation time.
A vacation is to a person what a reboot is to a computer that is slow, glitchy, and taking forever to do tasks that used to be done quickly. Mental breaks recharge the mind, and improve memory, productivity, and creativity — all vital in almost every job out there. You will find that although you may miss them when they’re gone, your coworkers are upgraded versions of themselves when they return. And, they will be eager to dive in and get things done.
3. Vacation is just as much of a right as a bathroom or lunch break
Would you shame a coworker for daring to leave their desk for an hour to eat a meal? Would you point out that they could be doing valuable work when they are heading to the bathroom? Well, of course not. These are needs, and vacation is just as important as either of those.
Vacation time may not be granted by U.S. law, but most employers offer paid leave as part of the benefits package. It’s right there with health care and sick time (which, by the way, people also feel guilty about taking).
The bottom line — every employee who takes paid time off has earned it, and they are simply using a benefit that comes with the position. In the case of people who don’t get paid time off, which stands at around 25 percent, you have even less reason to shame them. They are losing money by taking this time, and that is a difficult financial decision for anyone to make.
4. Vacation keeps good employees at the company
An unhappy employee is one that is looking for another job. A 2015 Talent Trends survey found that one out of every three employees is actively looking for a new job. That’s almost a third of the people at your company, right now, that wants out.
It is a fact that it costs a company a lot more money to replace employees than it does to retain them. For entry level employees, it’s between 30 percent and 50 percent of average annual salary. That figure increases to 150 percent for midlevel employees, and a whopping 400 percent for high-level or specialized talent. And guess what? One of the big reasons people move on is the lack of a good work-life balance. (See also: 9 Signs Your Work-Life Balance Is Off)
It is in the best interests of your company to keep people around, because it will not be spending excessive amounts of money retraining staff. Want a raise? More travel? A promotion? It’s more likely to happen if people aren’t quitting due to lack of time off.
5. Vacation broadens the mind
Well, to be more accurate, travel broadens the mind. But it’s a little hard to travel if you don’t take a vacation.
In some careers, especially ones that require creative or lateral thinking, this can be a great asset to the company. A well-furnished mind is one that can draw from many life experiences. This can translate to new, innovative ideas and suggestions, and lead to positive changes at the company. This, in turn, can boost productivity and profits, and even lead to expansion.
Someone who is staring at the same four walls day after day, month after month, is not going to be as valuable to the company as someone who has gone out into the world and done something new. Your company needs people who are well-traveled, not overworked.
6. Vacation boosts organizational morale
Who wants to work in a company filled with miserable, exhausted, irritable employees? That’s what you get if you work in an environment that vacation-shames people.
When you have very little to look forward to, coupled with a hectic work schedule and poor work-life balance, you’re not going to be much fun to be around. Compare that to someone who is planning to go on vacation. They are recognizably happier and more enthusiastic, because they’re looking forward to doing something fun. For those weeks, or months, they bring a sunny disposition with them to work. Then, they go on vacation and come back rested, refreshed, and ready to help.
This is all good for the company, and good for you. You will get a lift from their energy, instead of being dragged down by morale that’s in the gutter.
7. Vacation leads to better performance reviews and higher salaries
Put this in the “strange but true” category if you like, but a 2006 study by Ernst & Young found that each additional 10 hours of vacation an employee took led to performance reviews that were 8 percent higher the following year. And, of course, higher performance reviews lead to increased salary bumps, promotions, and greater opportunities within the company.
Why would this be? Well, look back at all the reasons given in this article for taking a vacation, and the answer becomes obvious. Employees that take vacation are sharper, happier, healthier, and more productive than coworkers who do not take time off. Naturally, this translates to better performance at work, a better attitude, and a better review.
So, even if you’re not vacation-shaming anyone (and hopefully that’s the case), you should look at your own vacation plan and increase your days off. It will positively impact your career.