Vacation Time – Use It. Don’t Lose It.

By Morag Barrett on November 25, 2014

Posted by Morag Barrett | November 25, 2014Vacation Time – Use It. Don’t Lose It.The holiday season is upon us, and yet there are still plenty of people who will not be taking a holiday in the next few weeks. You know who I mean, the colleague who prides themselves in “not having taken a vacation for years”, those who forgo their PTO (Paid Time Off) to spend ever longer hours in the office.  I have never understood this, while I love my job, I also love time with the family, time kicking back, hanging out with friends, time spent exploring new destinations.Earlier this year the newsstands and twitter feeds were abuzz with the announcement from Richard Branson and the Virgin Group of “unlimited vacation time for all”. It made me smile as we have been leading this charge for a number of years. SkyeTeam has had an unlimited vacation policy since I started the company in 2007. This year I spent time with the family sailing in Cape Cod (In this photo we were sailing into the leading edge of Hurricane Arthur so a little windy and wet!) and have plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas stay-cations too.I’ve always believed that, as adults, we can and should be trusted to take the appropriate amount of vacation to recharge our batteries. (Plus I really don’t want to have to track hours or time off, we all have better things and more fun things to do!)I decided to go a hunt to find out where the most and least vacation days were offered and stumbled on a newspaper article that summarized the global picture as follows:  The number of days on offer vary considerably! At the lower end is 0 (you can’t get lower than that!) to less than ten days. I have never quite understood the approach in American companies of two weeks vacation.I have also experienced the other end of the scale, at the end of my banking career in the UK I had 30 paid days vacation PLUS 9 national holidays. Essentially I was able to take a week off work every 6 weeks or so. It was challenging to fit them in, but I managed it, as did my team, and my branch and business thrived.However this leads to the next challenge, whether you get 10, 28 or unlimited vacation I regularly hear from friends and clients who proudly share that they nevertake their vacation time. These are PAID DAYS OFF. Why wouldn’t you take them?Vacation isn’t just a nice to have, it is a need to have. When we don’t take time away from work reports show that stress and sickness levels increase, morale and productivity actually drops. The reasons cited for not taking vacation are varied“I’m just too busy.”“The company / project is going through a critical time, I can’t afford to be away.”“It will be seen as a black mark on my reputation”“No one else takes vacation.”“My inbox will be so full that I will never catch up when I get back. Better to stay!”Some of the fears are real. A recent study reported that 13% of managers are less likely to promote employees who take all of their vacation time. In another 2012 survey, employees who took less than their full vacation time earned on average 2.8% more in the next year than employees who took all of their vacation.However, the reality is, that the world continues when we take vacation. When we choose to disconnect. Things will still be there, waiting for us when we return.It’s ironic that while there is so much discussion about the need for “work/life” balance, people resist this immediate opportunity to effect balance. It seems to me, finding a way to make it OK for employees to take vacation, to actively encourage time away from the office, can but help address this.The Washington Post’s recent article describes steps by two companies to further encourage employees to take vacation. Rather than the “use or lose it” approach adopted by many, Evernote provide $1,000 to employees taking vacation, a tangible incentive that is having positive results.For me, taking PTO doesn’t necessarily need cash incentives. It requires and over commitment and acknowledgement from everyone that this is an important part of being a successful team member. Vacation provides opportunity to spend time with family and friends, or to get away from it all. Either way most of us return to the office, refreshed, recharged and enriched, with new ideas and a clearer perspective to move forward.Don’t wait for the company fix. Take the individual approach and own your vacation, don’t lose it, use it, take your vacation and send me your holiday snaps so I can see you kicking back and having fun!Related ArticlesHow to be Mindful for the Holiday SeasonWe've just celebrated Thanksgiving... how mindful did you mange to be during the holiday? My guess is you still found yourself distracted by your phone, by the Black Friday adverts, by the latest 'must watch' movie or Netflix series. Mindfulness is one of the hot topics right now and has…November 27, 2018In "Emotional Intelligence"Having it all requires mindfulnessIt bemuses me as to why the concept of "having it all" seems to be predominantly quoted in terms of women and their careers and lives. That it is a 'female' issue, rather than a human issue. What about the men who aspire to "have it all" is this really a…March 29, 2016In "Emotional Intelligence"What's Your Word for 2016?How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? 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