One of the most beautiful phrases in the American labor lexicon is "paid time off." Or, one would think. But a number of reports are analyzing why Americans are just not leaving the office even when they have the right to. Why? When you can have a handful of days to get a massage in Bali, adventure through Rome, or pet some koalas in Australia, all while letting your bank account fill with your regular salary, why would you not take advantage? Instead, workers are coming in on sick days and leaving their vacation time in the dust. That means, they're basically paying their employers to be at work!
It seems counterintuitive, but our culture is one that fears missing out. American workers, especially those who can work remotely, are working all the time. Taking that time off means missing something, being unable to let go while on vacation, or having a huge workload to deal with before you leave and right when you get back. So many Americans say, "Why bother?"
Other workers have a different philosophy and think that their decision to take a vacation is a sign of laziness or weakness. But while you may think you're being heroic by forgoing your vacation, employers put that policy in place for a reason. It's to provide workers with time to deal with unexpected personal emergencies, sickness, and spending time with their families and friends without incurring debt. Paid time off is designed to give workers a well-deserved break. According to Colleen Kane of Fortune, "people won't take advantage of the policy unless the culture really supports it." Refusing this offer can have a variety of negative effects for both you, your company, and your family.
We can only run so long before we need a break, a rest, and some nourishing food. We're human, after all. The same goes with work. We need sleep in order to feel fresh and motivated in the morning. In the same way, a vacation can act as a necessary bookend to a series of productive months. Having something to look forward to can sometimes be a distraction, but it can also be that piece of chocolate cake on the end of the stick, just what we need to make it through. Long bouts of work without a moment to breathe will leave us slow, tired, and more like robots.
No one should come in sick to work. Even when you have a simple cold, coming into the office could do more damage than good. First of all, you won't feel like yourself, so you won't be able to perform to your best ability. Being sick at work will also slow your recovery time, so instead of one day off and 4 other productive weekdays, you'll have 5 semi-productive weekdays. No one will be mad at you. In fact, they'll be glad that you took the courtesy to get better, and sacrifice yourself for the sake of the team.
The Cost on Businesses
Think you're the only one that isn't benefiting from using your paid time off? Think again. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paid time off funds make up around 7% of total salary in the private industry. And according to The Wall Street Journal's coverage on a U.S. Travel Association study, unused vacation burdens businesses with $224 billion in liabilities. So, not using your vacation isn't just putting you at a disadvantage, but it's bad for the economy.
The Cost on Family
Your family is appreciative for all you do to keep bread and desserts on the table, and especially if you have kids, vacation time is a coveted time. Choosing to stay in the office means missing pivotal moments at home and time to make memories. It's important to be able to disconnect and spend time with those you love, because pretty soon the little ones will be off to college and will want nothing to do with you anymore. So appreciate your family, just like they appreciate you.
We work in an undoubtedly workaholic society, which has its benefits. Increased productivity is one imagined result, but unfortunately, humans are not designed to be working machines. That's why it's wise to take advantage of your paid time off and make the most of it. You deserve it.