Our vacation days are precious. The paid time off we’re given away from the office is our time to relax, rejuvenate and spend some quality time maintaining our work-life balance. Unfortunately, not many people take advantage of their vacation days the way they should.
There seems to be a misconception about taking time away from the office. Many of us fear taking breaks will hurt our projects, work relationships and professionalism, preventing us from getting a raise or a bonus. However, did you know taking your vacation days may actually help you get a raise?
According to the State of American Vacation 2017, a study completed by Project: Time Off, those who did not take time off from work were less likely to report raises or bonuses than those who did take advantage of their vacation policy.
Vacation Days and the Work Martyr
In the United States, we seem to push the idea that if you’re not always working, you’re lazy. We value busy entrepreneurs and business professionals who are always on the go, work long hours and do whatever they can to get ahead — even if it means skipping out on time with friends and family. This causes employees to believe if they want to be taken seriously in their professional positions, they need to be seen as a work martyr.
A work martyr is someone willing to sacrifice their personal relationships, time off and even their health for the sake of the company. They put in long hours, take on extra work and are proud of how busy they are. Typically, a work martyr believes that by sacrificing everything for the job and company, they’ll be rewarded with more raises and promotions.
However, the exact opposite is more likely to happen. According to the State of American Vacation 2017, work martyrs are less likely to receive a bonus or promotion than their coworkers who maintain a work-life balance. This may be because of the additional stress they take on.
Because work martyrs are constantly working for appreciation and praise they don’t seem to be getting, they create a stressful environment for themselves. As they take on more work and take less time off, that stress only grows, until they’re experiencing more problems both at work and at home. This stress can make them difficult to work with, cause careless mistakes in their jobs and prevent them from moving up the corporate ladder.
On the other hand, individuals who use their vacation days perform better because they’re able to get a break from the office and do something they enjoy. By taking time off from their work and projects, they can clear their heads and come back to the office ready to tackle new challenges.
Why Aren’t Employees Taking Time Off?
Not everyone who becomes a work martyr planned to do so. While some would rather spend their days in the office than on the beach, most people who forfeit their vacation days would rather take the time they’re given off, but they don’t feel like they can.
The State of American Vacation study outlines a number of reasons why employees are choosing to pass over time off to stay in the office. At the top of the list, employees are worried they’ll return to an overwhelming pile of work at the end of their vacation. Instead of postponing the work until they return, they’d rather stay in the office.
Other top reasons for missing vacation days include:
- Believing no one else in the office can do the job
- Not having the finances to take a vacation
- Finding it difficult to take time away because they’re in a senior role
Wanting to show complete dedication to the company is actually last on the list.
However, the study also states that two-thirds of employees believe their company has a negative or discouraging culture surrounding vacation days. This means they may find it difficult to ask for time off, which is difficult to comprehend when vacation days are part of an agreed-upon benefits package.
When it comes down to it, taking time off is better for the employees and the company as a whole — even if managers begrudgingly accept your vacation request.
Benefits of Taking Time Off — and How They Apply to Your Work
Taking your vacation days can bring you a number of health benefits. The healthier you are — both mentally and physically — the sharper you will be at work and the better you can function at 100 percent.
Here are some of the biggest benefits you get from taking a vacation day:
- Relieve Stress: Stress can cause a number of problems for you in the office. Taking a few days off every now and then can give you the opportunity to do something you enjoy, catch up on sleep or even spend a day getting some much-needed rest and relaxation.
- Improve Relationships: Whether you have a family or you’re single, fostering strong relationships is important for your overall happiness. Taking a vacation with your husband, kids, friends or parents can give you an opportunity to improve your relationship, bond and create some new memories — improving your happiness.
- Prevent Burnout: When the only thing you focus on is work, it’s easy to become bored or burned out. Taking a vacation allows your mind to do something different and take a break from the everyday tasks you need to complete in the office.
- Increase Energy Levels: Low energy can be linked to burnout and stress. When you’re spending too much time in the office, you may lose some of your spark. Taking your vacation days allows you to clear your mind, get an energy boost and come back to work ready to take on new challenges.
The benefits of vacation all relate to your mental health. When you take care of your mind and body, you can perform well at work, showcase your skills and get the raises and promotions you want. It all starts with asking for the time off.
How to Ask for Time Off
By now, you’re probably thinking about the next vacation you’re going to plan. You still need to be respectful of your boss, your projects and what needs to get done in the office while you’re away. In order to get the stamp of approval on your next vacation, you need to ask for time off appropriately.
Your company probably has a set procedure for requesting a vacation day. Whether this is sending a written notification to your boss, sitting down with an HR director or scheduling a meeting with your supervisor, you’ll want to initiate the process in whatever way is appropriate for your employer.
If you’re able, time the meeting, email or conversation to happen after you’ve completed a strong task or you’ve done something particularly well. If you catch your manager in a good mood, they’ll be more likely to grant you the vacation days without trying to make you feel guilty. This is especially true if you have a no-nonsense boss who seemingly becomes irritated every time you wish to use a PTO day.
Before you go into your meeting, think about the projects or tasks that would need to be completed while you’re away. Consider who else would be able to take them on, if they can wait until you return or if you can complete them before you go. Showing your manager that you’ve properly thought through what will need to get done when you’re out of the office can make you seem more professional and considerate of the company.
When having the conversation, remember to be respectful. If your manager has qualms about the dates you’ve selected, listen to their worries and work with them to come up with a solution. Remember, although you are entitled to your vacation days, you still need to get approval. Upsetting your boss or making demands is not the way to do that.
Also, keep in mind the number of vacation days you’re taking. While time away from work can help you improve your health and reduce stress, too much time away can hurt your professionalism. If you’re constantly taking time off or spending more time away from the office than you spend in it, you probably won’t be in the running for a promotion or raise.
Taking your vacation days may not directly translate into a promotion, salary bump or bonus, but it can help you maintain your happiness and strengthen your mental health so you can perform better on the job. Taking time off appropriately throughout the year can give you the break you need to maintain a clear, creative and energetic drive at work.