We’re quickly approaching the time of year when it seems most of the world jet sets to exotic vacation destinations. Somehow you’re stuck at your desk thinking a vacation is out of the question. The office would quite literally fall apart if you weren’t there to take care of everything, right?
You’re not alone. Recent surveys found a mere 25% of Americans utilize all their allotted paid vacation time; 42% of Americans don’t use ANY vacation days; and 61% of Americans work while on vacation. It’s no wonder we’re all so stressed and burnt out. We all refuse to stop working.
No one is saying a few days unplugged on a beach or in the mountains wouldn’t do wonders for our physical and mental health. For some, the reality of temporarily shutting down our work life and relaxing is difficult to attain.
Many problems in this area start at the top with upper management and filter through all levels of employees. If employees never see their boss leave the office, they feel less inclined to take their own vacation time. If unused vacation time is worn around the office like a badge of honor, no one feels comfortable taking time off.
Creativity, productivity, and retention rates improve when a vacation-friendly environment is fostered within a company. When you discourage vacation, you encourage burn out AND you take away a benefit your employees were promised when you hired them.
Some employers have started taking extra steps to encourage vacations by giving employees guidelines for MINIMUM vacation days. Other companies give employees vacation bonuses to encourage time off. Some employers are making progress, but what can employees do to make taking vacation time easier?
You have a long list of excuses for not taking a vacation: work load, unreliable coworkers, etc. Paid vacation is part of your compensation. You wouldn’t return a portion of your paycheck. Why are you leaving vacation time on the table? With a small amount of preparation, rest assured the office will remain standing when you return from your long weekend.
It goes without saying: wrap up any loose ends before you leave. Finish projects early or arrange for someone else to cover for you while you’re gone.
Before you leave, establish another point of contact within your department for anyone who may need you and include their contact information in your away message. This alleviates a long to-do list when you return.
Most importantly, set boundaries before you leave. Let coworkers know your availability or lack thereof. These days even the most remote islands have access to WiFi, but communicate with the office at your own discretion. If you respond to an email one morning, are you stuck putting out office fires from your tropical oasis the rest of the day?
There will always be excuses to not take vacation, but your self-care should not be up for negotiation. Use this summer to take those vacation days you’ve earned and relax. Work will be there when you get back – we promise.