“Take Your Vacation Days”

Too many people limit their happiness and success by assuming that taking time off from work will send a negative message to their manager/co-workers and slow their career advancement. New research, by the U.S. Travel Association, titled “Project: Time Off,” says that the opposite may be true.

Their analysis found that Americans are taking less vacation time than at any point in the last four decades. “Why?” According to Gary Oster, Managing Director of the project, “Many people don’t take time off because they think that it will negatively influence their manager’s perception of them. But, that isn’t the case at all.”

The benefits of managers’ encouragement for employees to use their vacation time, generally makes good business sense.

The research data showed that people who take all of their vacation time have a 6.5 percent higher chance of getting a promotion or a raise than people who leave 11 or more days of paid time off on the table. That percentage sounds small (and remember that a correlation does not prove causation), but it may begin to move us away from the idea that staying at work means getting ahead. It simply does not.

Shawn Achor is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Happiness Advantage.” His TED talk has over 11 million views. He has lectured or researched at over a third of Fortune 100 companies. His longitudinal and meta-data analysis not surprisingly found a positive, engaged brain improves important personal and business outcomes.

Specifically, research shows that when the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31 percent, sales increase by 37 percent, and creativity and revenues can triple. His conclusion, based on a decade of research, was that “the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” To be truly engaged at work, our brain’s needs periodic breaks to gain fresh perspective and energy.

Of course, vacations are not all created equally. Some vacations yield no improvement in people’s levels of energy or happiness upon returning to work. (Think Disneyworld, trying to satisfy the wants and needs of energetic young children, or a weeklong group tour of Europe, with your grandparents, parents and aunts and uncles) In these cases, it was not the time away, which caused the negative or neutral impact. It was the travel stress. (Really? Thank goodness for research! We’ve all needed a “vacation from vacation” every now and then, right?)

In a study of over 400 world travelers, Michelle Gielan from the Institute for Applied Positive Research found 94 mpercent of vacations result in higher levels of happiness and energy if you 1) plan a month in advance and prepare your coworkers for your time away, 2) go outside your city (the further the better), 3) met with a local host or other knowledgeable guide at the location, and 4) have the travel details set before going. Smart vacations lead to greater happiness and energy at work, and therefore, greater productivity, intelligence and resilience.

According to research done again by the U.S. Travel Association, when asked what would motivate managers to talk to their employees about using more vacation days, the top benefit was increased personal happiness (31 percent), followed by productivity (21 percent). Why does happiness win out? Because most managers understand that happy, clear-brained, engaged employees are more productive and collaborative.

Importantly, four out of 10 employees say that they cannot take their vacation because they have too much work to do. The reality is whether you take a vacation or not; you are still going to have a lot of work to do. Life is finite, and work is infinite. Your inbox or project list will never be empty. Communicate, plan and strategize with your manager and coworkers to minimize disruption.

However, what if you work in an organizational culture that is just not supportive of taking your accrued vacation time? In that case, it is time to come together with your manager and coworkers and create a new culture that encourages staff to take vacation time in a cooperative manner. This gives everyone license to benefit from time off.

If you need to modify vacation utilizations in your company, you may wish to review and share this research. Then, start planning your next vacation. It is good for you, your career and your company.

William Kreider is the founder and CEO of HR Future Group, a firm that offers a full service suite of human capital management services for all sizes & types of businesses. From Transformational HR, Talent Management, Executive and Organizational Coaching, Leadership Development, Outsourcing, Compensation, Talent Acquisition and other HCM consulting services to Cloud-based Payroll, HRIS, Time & Attendance, and Benefit Administration, HR Future can assist your business.  Mr. Kreider has significant executive experience in all areas within the HR profession in a variety of industries.  For more information, please email him at BillKreider44@comcast.net or call 267.222.2834.