Project: Time Off reports that more Americans are leaving vacation days unused rather than using all of them.
55% of Americans report having unused vacation days at the end of the year. Common explanations given by those in the study included: worrying about a mountain of work upon returning, believing no one else could perform their job in the interim, wanting to show dedication to the company, and not wanting to seem replaceable.
But when the investigators dug deeper, an underlying theme emerged: 80% of employees said they would feel comfortable using all of their PTO if their boss encouraged it, yet 60% reported no such encouragement. 65% of employees claimed they hear nothing, mixed messages, or discouraging messages about taking time off.
In these environments, it’s no wonder that many employees give up their available vacation days. In fact, Americans collectively lost 222 million vacation days in 2015, which is equivalent to $61.4 billion dollars in forfeited benefits. And this only includes non-rollover days, not vacation time that was deferred to the next year. These days are permanently gone.
You may think this is a small price to pay for the superior productivity and hardworking reputation you'll earn. That just seems like common sense. But the research tells us something different. Employees who didn’t take all of their available time off were actually 6.5% less likely to receive a raise or promotion. In addition, employees who totally disconnect from the company for vacation time are noticeably more energized and interested in their job when they return.
Even more strikingly, employers have the most to gain by encouraging their employees to use vacation days. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management has shown that the majority of HR professionals believe employees’ wellness, morale, performance, and productivity are all improved when they use their vacation days. Taking time away from their duties for regular vacation intervals actually makes employees more productive in the long run.
Even during busy vacation seasons, like the summer, many employers report that when vacation days are staggered, the impact of the frequently empty cubicles was actually negligible to the bottom line. In fact, in the Harvard Business Review, Shawn Achor, bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage and founder of consulting firm GoodThink, claims that when positive brains come back from vacation, productivity improves up to 31%, sales increase up to 37%, and creative output can triple.
In the end, both employers and employees have plenty to gain from using vacation days and getting out of the office for a while. It’s even good for the economy as a whole. If every American used one more vacation day each year than they currently are, the economy would get a boost of roughly $73 billion annually. Despite what your business instincts might say, a “Gone Fishing” sign on your employee's desk represents more profit for your company, not less.