Forget, for the moment, the notion that a vacation is good for you. For some U.S. workers, that will be easy. CareerBuilder.com reports that 28 percent of all vacation days awarded to workers last year by their employers went unused.
It will be hard to convince anyone that these workers don't really want to take time off or that they are so in love with or committed to their work that they can't stand being away from it.
A more realistic assessment is that workers fear that taking time off inconveniences their employers or makes them more vulnerable to layoff in an uncertain economy.
Outplacement expert John Challenger reinforces that last thought.
"Those who are out of touch for a week or more will be remembered, and not in a good way, particularly if some kind of crises arises during the absence."
The reality is that vacations are just as good for employers as they are for employees. Not only are paid vacations a competitive advantage in hiring and retaining workers, but employers also understand that a break from the job serves to revitalize workers so they are more productive while they are working.
A recent survey by CareerBuilder revealed that 25 percent of workers who will take vacation this year will remain in touch with their employer through voice mails and e-mails. That's up from 20 percent last year. Ten percent of workers say they will be expected to do at least some job tasks while on vacation. And, the survey says that 15 percent of workers gave up vacation days last year because they didn't have the time to take them.
Although one in four U.S. workers do not have paid time off for vacations, those who do average 14 days of vacation. Even so, an average of four of those vacation days went unused.
"Taking a vacation is a great way for workers to re-energize themselves and bring fresh ideas back to the table," says Rosemary Hafner, a CareerBuilder vice president. "Unfortunately for some workers, getting away can add unnecessary stress to their lives.
Twelve percent of workers said they feel guilty when they are on vacation, and 6 percent felt that it could lead to them losing their jobs."
Paid vacations are a gift from U.S. employers. There is no law mandating that workers must be paid for taking time off. But the 14 days granted by U.S. employers pales in comparison to the average of 24 days granted workers in Great Britain and 39 days granted to workers in France.
Nobody can force you to take a vacation, but more employers should encourage their workers to take all their allotted time off.
Vacations are wonderful for personal rejuvenation that translates into increased productivity when you return to the job.
Bypassing vacation time is a sure path of doom. Workers are not like computers that don't require downtime. Workers need breaks from the job to maintain their health and engagement in their work.
And, while no one can require you to take time off, companies that push their workers to use all their vacation time are doing it because they know it will help their companies as well as their employees.