Why You Should Really Take All of Your Vacation Time. (No, Really)

Stop being a martyr for your job and give yourself a break

Time to get away (Image: Thinkstock)

Where are you going this year on vacation? How long will you be gone? Have you already asked for the time off? I’m willing to bet that many professionals are unsure of the answer–and those who have planned a trip are probably not planning to be out of the office more than a week.

In a survey conducted by the career development organization Right Management, 46% workers polled admitted to not taking all of their vacation time for 2010. Although, Douglas J. Matthews, President and Chief Operating Officer for Right Management, explained that the number was slightly lower than the previous year, he also noted that workload and stresses of job security are usually the reasons employees forego their time off. But Matthews and other experts suggest that not taking time off can have adverse effects on the workers and the business environment.

Here are reasons why you really need to take your vacation time. No, really.

It’s a paid benefit. There are no federal laws that regulate vacation time, but many private companies offer it as a benefit. Benefits are part of your total compensation package, which can be negotiated before you take a job. Five to 10 days is the most Americans get in vacation time on average. It takes roughly 10 years for the average worker to be eligible for three weeks. Europeans start with a federally mandated 20 days, and many enjoy up to six weeks. You wouldn’t suggest that your boss hold part of your salary or a portion of your healthcare package. It’s time that’s owed to you. Take it!

Because everybody needs a break. American workers are about the only ones who don’t feel that way. In an article on America.gov called, For Many Americans, Hard Work is a Badge of Honor, the author notes that economists believe that the all-work-little-play mentality of American workers is what contributes to the high economic standard of living in this country. But health and psychiatric professionals will argue that workaholics are subject to a variety of health and emotional challenges that include hypertension, depression and a number of stress-related ailments. A growing number of companies are realizing it too. Some like Netflix offer unlimited vacation time as a way to better attract and keep talent and others like McDonald’s take it step further and offer sabbaticals to employees. Studies have shown that breaks from the office grind not only improve physical well-being and attitudes toward work, it also inspires creativity, which improves productivity and the quality of the work.

You’re an employee not a martyr. It’s important to be recognized for the work you do, but your efforts should never be at the expense of your physical or mental health. Smart employees learn how to balance their workloads, delegate responsibilities when possible, turn down certain assignments and take the necessary breaks to rejuvenate physically, mentally and emotionally. Martyrs die at their desks or their way to the office. The boss offers kind remembrances of their work, and then finds a replacement. Take your vacation time.

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