Americans don’t always take advantage of their paid vacation days. A recent study by Expedia.com explored the vacation habits of 7,855 employed adults from all over the world, and it showed that U.S. workers, on average, receive 15 paid vacation days but only use 14 of them. That’s better than the 12 days off we took in 2013, but more than half of Americans said they felt “very or somewhat” vacation-deprived — which shouldn’t be a surprise since American companies are some of the least generous in the world when it comes to doling out vacation days.
But the reasons why we leave vacation days on the table explain much more than the statistics can. According to the study, some of the most popular excuses for not using vacation days worldwide were having a work schedule that is not conducive to taking time off (19%), a desire to carry vacation days over to the next year (18%), a general lack of funds (18%), and scheduling problems (16%).
So it’s not always that workers don’t want to take their vacation days; it’s more about the logistics of taking vacation in the first place. Still, I would argue that anyone who works for a living deserves a vacation each year – even if it’s just a short weekend away or a few days to themselves. Here’s why:
Taking a vacation can ward off depression: “While habits differ, the emotional impact of vacation does not,” John Morrey, vice president and general manager of Expedia.com, said in a press release. “Somewhere between 80 and 90% of people worldwide say that vacations make them feel happier, better rested, closer to their family, less stressed, and more relaxed.”
That advice may ring hollow coming from the CEO of a travel company, but there is a scientific basis for his sentiment. According to a study in the Wisconsin Medical Journal, women who took vacations were less likely to experience depression or tension. If a vacation makes you feel more relaxed and less stressed, that makes sense.
Vacations can be good for your health: If it’s true that an annual vacation can keep depression at bay, then vacations may also have health benefits. According to CNN, several studies have proven that people who take vacations are less likely to experience heart problems. Specifically, one study showed that women who didn’t take vacation were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack.
Taking a vacation can make you a better employee: A new study from Oxford Economics revealed that workers who take vacation time come back feeling refreshed and less stressed. But the benefits aren’t just for the employees themselves; on the employer side, that means more productive, happier workers.
According to the study, a heavy workload coupled with pressure from management and peers can make it difficult for workers to justify their time off. However, that trend is often to the detriment of both the employer and employee, since taking time off appears to lead to more productivity and job satisfaction, not less.
Taking Vacation Because You Deserve It
The fact that vacation is good for the soul is hardly debatable. And since science continues to prove that vacation can be good for your health, it’s hard to understand why we’re all so obsessed with work.
No matter how many vacations you take (or don’t take), work will always be waiting for you when you get back. You can’t escape it, but you can take a much-needed break from it. And sometimes, that’s all anyone needs.
So don’t feel bad taking the vacation or PTO days you’ve earned. Don’t fall for the hype that work is more important than, you know, your life. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t take your vacation days because it will interfere with their project, send the wrong message, or saddle them with more work.
Today is the only day like it, and tomorrow is the same. And if you don’t take time to smell the roses, you might look back one day and wish you had done things differently.
Do you take all your vacation days? If not, why not? Have you ever felt pressure from co-workers or employers when it comes to how you use your paid time off?