Do You Use Your Vacation Days? If You Don't, You're Not Alone.

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According to the new Project: Time Off white paper report Groundhog Day Every Day: America's Repeating Vacation Problem, we are a nation of worker bees. Project: Time Off wanted to know why Americans forgo their vacation days—and whether this decision impacts business success, happiness and personal relationships. It also suggested ways to get America vacationing again.

The majority of us are simply not using our paid time off. Project: Time Off research indicates managers understand that vacation time positively affects office productivity and an employee's overall well-being. "Fully 96 percent of employees believe taking time off is important with a majority of workers (52 percent) and a near majority of managers (46 percent) characterizing time off as "extremely important.""

If managers and employees alike realize the importance of vacation time, why is neither group actually vacationing? Year after year, four in 10 American workers fail to use their time off.

While at one point American workers used more than 20 days of vacation each year, vacation usage is experiencing a rapid downward spiral. The study indicated that vacation usage is now the lowest it has been in the past 40 years. Why aren't we vacationing?

According to Project: Time Off, "When asked to name barriers to taking time off, one-fifth (20 percent) of workers cited their company's culture. Further, 58 percent of American employees believe that America's work culture stresses productivity over personal balance."

Our decision to "waste" our vacation days is also a function of our monkey see, monkey do mindset. Employees often follow the example set by their managers—and the study showed that 46 percent of managers work while on vacation. This may be why 37 percent of workers conclude that it is simply easier to work than it is to take time off.

How can we fix this mindset? How can you get your clients traveling? Groundhog Day Every Day: America's Repeating Vacation Problem indicates a cultural shift is required and sets forth the following advice:

Spot the symptoms of work martyrdom—fast.
Just like your other bad habits, the first step is to recognize you have a problem: Do you feel you're the only one who can do your work? Are you stressed and need a vacation—but you can't take one? It may be hard to swallow, but you need to know: You're a work martyr. While you should still be proud of your work ethic, it's time to recognize that it's morphed into work martyrdom.

Plan your days for the year.
Americans who plan their time off are happier with their overall mood, financial situation and jobs. Planning is the fun part. It is the part where your dreams and goals come in. What are you going to cross off your bucket list this year? Confirm your vacation benefits and any dates you can't take off, and schedule out your days for the year. Then, tell your boss. But no need to be anxious: Nearly all senior business leaders believe in the benefits of vacation time to employees and to businesses. Getting it on the calendar is what matters most.

Take your vacation—and when you get back, show and tell.
Talk about your vacation when you're back and share the benefits with your co-workers. Nearly three in 10 people (28 percent) don't.

Click here to read Groundhog Day Every Day: America's Repeating Vacation Problem in its entirety—then go plan your vacation!

Written by Lisa Stickler, staff writer for West Michigan Woman magazine.


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