When was the last time you REALLY took a vacation? A real vacation and not just two days? When was the last time you unplugged from the digital world, spent time doing what you wanted to do, enjoying family and friends and perhaps having an adventure other than trying to locate a matching lamp shade at WalMart?
If you’re like most Americans, your answers would require looking back at your calendar to even remember!!In a report prepared by Project Time Off, American workers reported taking off just 16.2 days, almost a full week less compared to the pre-2000 average (20.3 days). The growing stockpile of unused paid leave is contributing to worker burnout and even larger balance sheet liabilities that directly affect a company’s bottom line.
Why don’t we take time off? We (and I put myself in the category) have a work martyr syndrome. If I don’t do the work, who will? How much will be piled up and waiting if I take time off?
OK, I am a sole proprietor. But similar thinking exists in organizations. The work martyr syndrome combined with a culture of silence in the work place is keeping workers at their desks instead of using their time off. The top barriers for employees include:
Return to a mountain of work, 37%No one else can do the job, 30%I cannot financially afford a vacation, 30%Taking time off is harder as you grow in the company, 28%Want to show complete dedication, 22%
An overwhelming majority of American workers believe that time off helps them relax and recharge, and offers the opportunity to do what they enjoy. Nearly two-thirds of employees say their concentration and productivity at work improve with taking time off. This sentiment is echoed by senior business leaders, 91 percent of whom believe employees return from vacation recharged and renewed—and ready to work more effectively. And here is the cost: Employers also carry unused vacation days as a liability on their balance sheets. There is a $272 billion vacation liability sitting on the balance sheets of American companies.
Here are the top four things organizations and individuals can do to break this cycle:
Managers: help employees PLAN to take time off. Find out what fears stop people from stepping away from the office. Check the reality of workload.
Remember and repeat: The only person who ever had their work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe.
Itemize activities (or non-activities) that help you re-energize, refocus and renew. Changes are, these are not high ticket items.
Select a date and stick to it. Let all who are impacted by your work know when you will be away. Shut whatever door you have... mentally or physically.
As for me, I have marked out the calendar. A road trip to unseen places. Hiking boots, camera, journal and eyes wide open. Gone June 18-30. Bonnie is in charge. I’m off to find more of life.