The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

Vacations Boost Resiliency. Let’s Take Them!

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer - Monday, July 16, 2018
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Stressed out? Overwhelmed? Too little sleep? Concerned about the “optics” of taking time off?” The list could go on and on with the excuses we make about not taking vacations.

Think about it. 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, enjoyed family and friends and perhaps had an adventure other than trying to locate a matching lamp shade at Wal Mart?

Why don’t we take time off? We (and I put myself in that 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 workplace 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%


And there is a cost beside the wear and tear on one’s mental and physical energy resources.

Although vacation usage is the highest in seven years, 52% are still leaving vacation time on the table. In a report prepared by Project Time Off, the projected economic impact of unused vacation is $255 Billion. The stockpile of unused paid leave is contributing to worker burnout and even larger balance sheet liabilities that directly affect a company’s bottom line.

Here are the top four things organizations and individuals can do to break this cycle:


  1. 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.
  2. Individuals: remember and repeat: The only person who ever had their work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe.
  3. Itemize activities (or non-activities) that help you re-energize, refocus and renew. Chances are, these are not high ticket items. The goal of a vacation is to recharge and renew.
  4. 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. In mid-summer, it looks like a potential backpacking trek into the High Sierras. And then for three weeks (gasp!) in September, we’ll explore parts of Europe we have never seen: Milan, Lake Como, Budapest, Prague and down the Danube. I’ll come back like the “energizer bunny” with insights and ideas.

What are your plans? I’d love to know.


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Eileen McDargh Keynote Speaker Blog Author

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

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