Use Your Vacation Days, It's Good For Your Career



By: Stacy McClain, NASM-CPT

Americans are not taking all their vacation days. According to the latest report from The Project: Time Off, 52% of Americans had unused vacation days at the end of the year which totaled to 705 million days of unused PTO annually.

Not only is that a lot of time, but it’s time that your employer is willing to give you. It’s part of your compensation and benefits for working as hard as you do. So why aren’t we taking it?

One reason could be the rising pressure to keep up with demands and responsibilities. Over time, we’ve adopted the mentality that longer hours and more work equates to success. We compete against our peers for who works the longest hours, who is the most dedicated to their career, and who is needed the most by their company. We fear that if we take time away from the office, it might put us in a bad position whether that means more stress upon your return or falling behind someone else in the race to the next promotion.

We may associate taking vacation with laziness or lack of commitment, but research shows it’s quite opposite. A study by the American Psychological Association found that the majority of employees strongly agree feeling less stressed and more energized after a vacation. In addition, those who take their PTO are at a lower risk for heart disease, depression and overall burnout. Benefits from better health contribute to higher productivity and lower turnover and healthcare costs for the employer.

Vacations also provide the perfect environment for creativity and innovation.  When we get a break from doing, it open us up to deeper thought and introspection. We find ourselves experiencing new things and taking on different perspectives that can lead to new ideas in the office.  We often return with a greater appreciation for the world, our workplace and our work.

So maybe It’s time to associate vacation as a tool to enhance your success at a company rather than take away or hurt our career. Read the tips below on how to set yourself up for success on your next getaway:

Plan in advance: Not only does this help when asking your boss for time off, but it gives you enough time to plan the details and create a doable schedule to get everything ready to go rather than rush to get everything done right before you leave. Get a head start on any upcoming deadlines or projects you’ll need to finish before you leave. Book hotels, make sure all your travel documents are in order, find a dog sitter, look up transportation, book cool events, pack

Plan to unplug: One of the most common reasons cited for not using vacation days is the idea that we have too much work. Make it a goal to take a full vacation from your work. That means no email and no phone. Set an out of office message. Unplug completely. If you plan in advance, you should be able to get a head start on any upcoming deadlines or projects you’ll need to finish before you leave. You can always ask your peers/coworkers for help. Create a cheat sheet with any necessary contacts or information and leave it with someone you trust. Ask them to help cover while you’re away. Just remember to return the favor on their next vacation.

Enjoy a balanced vacation: Fill your schedule with fun adventures, but also make sure to take time to catch up on rest. Enjoy the local food. Skip a workout. But try not to stray too far from your healthy habits. Remember, the whole point of PTO is to come back refreshed and rejuvenated.

Add a rest day on the backend: Don’t go straight from your return flight to an inbox full of emails with an empty fridge and a suitcase to unpack at home. Take a day to set yourself up for success. Go through your emails and create a list of action items. Grocery shop and meal prep for the week. Unpack your clothes. Do laundry. Go to bed early. Your return will be much easier this way.