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Stop wasting vacation days! Vacation is good for self-care and mental health!

Originally posted September 5, 2017.

Billions of dollars in benefits are wasted every year as employees work through paid holidays and swap vacation days for a few more hours at the office. No wonder American workers say they’re stressed out and burnt out. But if work is so tiring and employers are offering a paid break, why is fewer than half the workforce taking advantage of it?

When asked, American workers cite workload anxiety as the main driver of their workaholic nature, but their answers suggest part of the problem is self-constructed: 37 percent of employees say there’s too much work to take vacation, while 30 percent believe no one else will be able to pick up the slack while they’re gone. 21 percent feel obligated to stay connected to the office and 22 percent fear their job security will be at risk if they don’t show complete dedication to their career.

However, one major factor contributing to all that wasted vacation time comes from the American work culture itself: 80 percent of workers say their boss doesn’t encourage taking time off. But working through paid vacations means more than wasted benefits. It’s bad for workers, bosses, and the bottom line.

Employees who use their vacation time are more productive and happier at work. They’re more creative, more focused, and more likely to stick with their job long-term. For workers, it helps restore work-life balance, gives time to be present in relationships, alleviates stress and related mental health issues, and reignites the passion that brought employees to where they are today. For bosses, it creates a more motivated, efficient, and loyal workforce, which translates to big savings in staffing expenses.

Despite these benefits, workers are still hesitant to take their allotted time off. How can employees get past work anxiety and prioritize their own well-being?

First things first, employees should familiarize themselves with their benefits package and their company’s vacation policy so they know exactly what paid time off they’re entitled to.

Ideally, vacations should be scheduled for times of the year when the workload is low. If there’s a big deadline every spring, a trip should be timed for after the project is finished. However, some jobs have a steady workflow year-round. If that’s the case, travel should be scheduled well in advance to avoid conflicts with coworkers’ vacations.

Requests for time off should be made in writing. This not only ensures that bosses can plan ahead for an employee’s absence, but it also prevents administration forgetting about a planned absence and getting upset when someone fails to clock in.

Finally, employees should prepare as much as possible for their absence. If there’s a project with an impending deadline, it should be completed before traveling. If responsibilities need to be delegated to other employees, writing up a task list and explanation ensures that nothing is missed.

Once all of that is taken care of, it’s time to plan for the vacation itself. Depending on their finances and the amount of time off they’re comfortable taking off at once, employees may opt for anything from an international adventure to a staycation. Either way, planning an itinerary empowers workers to make the most of their paid time off.

Purchase flights and hotels well in advance to snag the best deals. Employees at large companies may even receive discounts at particular chains. Decide whether children or pets will be tagging along, and arrange for care if they’re staying home. While taking a pet on vacation might sound like a hassle, it can be quite easy: With the growing popularity of pet ownership, it’s possible to find pet-friendly airlines, hotels, restaurants, and parks in nearly every city across the country. And for activities that pets can’t join in on, there are kennels and dog daycares to fill in the gaps. Check out for more tips on travelling with your pet.

Even staycations benefit from a schedule. Planning hikes, spa days, and get-togethers helps employees prioritize self-care during time off, rather than letting work anxiety squash motivation.

Regardless of whether a vacation is taken at home or in an exotic location, time off is an important part of a healthy work-life balance that keeps employees happy and inspired for the long haul.

Image via Unsplash

Author: Henry Moore (


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