Let’s start with the most obvious point; vacations help you recharge. While some employees might feel that it looks better to keep working hard, or that the office won’t survive without them, that isn’t realistic. You need time to refresh and relax, and taking that time will only help you remain more productive in the long run.
Case in point: according to a 2013 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study cited by Project: Time Off, 75 percent of HR professionals reported seeing better performance from employees who took more vacation days than from those who took less.
Also, vacations are extremely important for helping you learn to relax. If you don’t have that skill, it’ll be difficult to handle stress at work down the line. “Without time and opportunity to [relax], the neural connections that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it actually more difficult to shift into less-stressed modes,” Clinical psychologist Deborah Mulhern told ABC News.
While this infographic from Business Insider notes that saving time for later and being afraid of falling behind at work are the biggest reasons that employees won’t take a vacation, some might also be familiar with concerns about taking time off hurting their chances for a promotion or raise.
However, as GoGirl Finance notes, a USTA study found no evidence that avoiding vacation improves one’s chances for a bonus or a raise. Furthermore, GoGirl also points out that taking some time away from work might just help others see how important your contributions are. Relying on others and taking time to plan how your duties will be covered in your absence also strengthens your team and helps build bonds between co-workers.
Beyond simply helping you recharge and feel less stressed, studies suggest that taking a vacation is also key for your overall health and wellness. GoGirl notes that men who don’t take vacations are more likely to suffer from heart disease, while women who don’t take time off are more likely to suffer from depression.
Not taking time to relax can cost you in more ways than one. If your employer has a “use-it or lose-it” policy when it comes to vacation days, you could be missing out on more than just the health and relaxation benefits of taking time off. According to Project: Time Off, employees in the US alone are letting go of $52.4 billion in combined benefits every year.
For companies that allow employees to rollover vacation time, unused paid time off can leave a big liability on company balance sheets. Project: Time Off also notes that US companies recorded roughly $224 billion in unused vacation time this year, with roughly $65.6 billion in unused paid vacation days being carried over from 2014 to 2015. While that isn’t an immediate worry, it’s certainly a “potential and perhaps unnecessary burden on a business’ financial health and outlook.”
As mentioned above, employees who don’t take care of their health by taking vacations can also cost their company in additional sick days. Furthermore, taking time off can help companies retain talent and keep turnover costs down – SHRM said that 78 percent of human resources directors found that employees who took more vacation days reported higher job satisfaction.
Beyond just helping employees maintain their productivity and improve their performance, taking time away from the office can help get creative juices flowing, and may even help you come up with your next big idea. Bill Gates is famous for his think weeks, but even simply taking some time away from one’s regular routine can do the trick. For example, Kevin Systrom came up with the idea for Instagram on vacation in Mexico, while Drew Houston was traveling when he thought of the idea for Dropbox.
Taking vacation days is good for you and good for your company too. While it might be difficult for both employers and employees to step away from the office, having a clear vacation policy that encourages employees to take vacation days can be good for both their health and the health of your business.
To be sure, there are plenty of great examples to choose from. Hubspot allows unlimited time off, but has also mandated a minimum of two weeks vacation, while TED completely shuts its offices down for two weeks during the summer to ensure that even workaholics step away for a little while.