What does “dedication” mean to you? In the context of your work, it probably calls to mind someone who’s practically chained to his desk – you know, that one co-worker who eats lunch at their desk, wearing a makeshift bib made of discarded reports, and takes one vacation day per year … to take his dog to the vet. There’s just one problem: science says hoarding your vacation days is making you less likely to succeed at your job, not more.
Recent research from The U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off found that more than half of 5,641 American workers surveyed had unused vacation days in 2015. Their sacrifice wasn’t paying off: the researchers note that “Employees who take 10 or less days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more.”
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“In NBC’s The Office, while trying to get a promotion from his boss Michael Scott, the awkward and overeager Dwight Schrute shows a spreadsheet documenting that he has never been late and has never taken a day off from work,” write Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan at Harvard Business Review. “He does not get the promotion. And that is exactly what the data bears out.”
In other words, your boss probably isn’t going to think better of you if you only take five of your 10 allotted days, say, instead of eight. So, you might as well go on vacation.
Other Findings From the Research
- Americans took 16.2 vacation days, on average, in 2015.
- In total, American workers left 658 million vacation days unused last year, losing 222 million vacation days total. The lost days couldn’t be rolled over or bought out.
- Those lost vacation days added up to $61.4 billion in forfeited benefits. Project: Time Off notes that by giving up these days, “Americans are effectively volunteering hundreds of millions of days of free work for their employers.”
- Our intentions are better than our reality. Previous surveys were conducted at mid-year, and focused on how much time off respondents planned to take. This year’s survey was conducted in January, and reflected the actual number of vacation days the participants took off. As a result, this year’s numbers look even worse than they are – 55 percent of workers leaving days untaken, as opposed to 42 percent in 2014 – but the difference is at least partly because of the timing and structure of the surveys.
- Managers can make a difference. About two-thirds of respondents said that they heard “nothing, mixed messages, or discouraging messages about taking time off.” Eighty percent said they’d be more likely to take time off, if they received more positive messages about it from the boss. So, if they really want to promote work-life balance, it’s on managers to step up and communicate.
Tell Us What You Think
When it comes to vacation days, are you on Team Take ‘Em or Team Leave ‘Em? Tell us about it on Twitter, or leave your comment below.
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