The Real Truth Behind Vacation Policies in America


After finishing university, everyone aims to have a job that provides them with two things: employee benefits and paid vacation. We’re told throughout our lives that these two factors are must-haves in your prospective job. So what do we do? We hunt for them. Turning down jobs that don’t provide us with enough vacation or lack of sick days and wholeheartedly accepting the job that is on paper, is everyone’s dream. Honestly, those jobs are not easy to find as only 53% of employers offer paid time off plans. Despite a little over half of employers offering paid time off, employee benefits are one of the most important job satisfaction factors for employees. For many people paid time off may sound nice, but is nothing more than a pipe dream. As a result, many individuals do not take vacation. For employers, employees that never stop working, sounds like a dream. Although it’s actually more harmful to businesses than one thinks. A business is supported by the people that work for it. They bring motivation, growth, ideas, and creativity. However, these attributes are not an endless resource, which is why vacation is so important. It allows people to recharge their batteries and clear their minds from the busy and hectic lives they live.

In other words, people need distance from work regardless of if they love their job or not. Although we all desire paid time off benefits in our job contracts, we refrain from actually using it. The evidence is clear that Americans need a break, as almost three-quarters of workers express that they’re stressed at work, with one-in-four expressing “very” or “extreme” levels of stress.

So, what are the reasons that refrain us from taking time off? Well, the reasons can easily be defined as symptoms of “work martyrs”. The U.S. Travel Association found that the reasons for workers refraining from taking time off is mostly due to the workers construct. Forty-percent of employees are afraid of returning back to an endless pile of work that has piled up during vacation. Thirty-five percent of employee’s state that they’re the only ones who can do their job, and twenty-five percent are afraid of losing their jobs or being replaced if they take time off. Now, you may be thinking that these thoughts are ridiculous, that this fear is without backing; however, that’s not the case. These fears are highly justified as 28% of senior leaders have difficulty approving paid time off requests and 32% of senior leaders worry that vacation time will place increased stress on other employees. In other words, employees don’t feel supported when taking vacation, thus, feeling at risk of unwarranted consequences resulting in employees  not taking vacation time.

Sadly, this is a common mentality and culture in the American workplace. The “always on” work culture has a powerful impact when it comes to employees requesting vacation as many of them receive negative or no feedback with regards to vacation time. The idea of “work, work, work” isn’t helping anyone. Out of those with paid time off benefits in their contracts, 31% of workers do not have control over their paid time off, the company does. In addition, senior leaders also set the example for paid time off, 46% of bosses stay connected to the company during their time off, which suggests that employees should also stay connected. Staying connected to the office during your vacation doesn’t provide you with a proper break from work. For many people, they don’t see the need to go on vacation if they’re just going to be answering emails from the beach – and that’s completely understandable. And this damaging culture behind paid time off is ultimately causing harm by squeezing out every last ounce of energy from the employees leading to burnout and impeding the growth of the business. A business is essentially a giant ecosystem with a delicate balance that needs to be maintained. Without your employees, the balance is disrupted and growth is hindered.

So, what’s the solution? Do we continue down this bleak road? No. In essence, the culture behind the work martyr must change and the idea that being a work martyr is respected must also change. We all know that the employer-employee relationship is here to stay, but why not focus on creating a culture that values an individual’s time and personal well-being. An unhealthy employee is not a useful employee. That is undisputable. The figures are in and show that individuals who don’t take time off don’t perform as well as those that use all their paid time off. In addition, work martyrs are also more stressed at work and at home. Employers must focus on encouraging employees to take time off as in turn, it will benefit the employee and the business. In addition, using a time tracking application will also allow employers to manage their employees’ working habits to help implement adequate time off and rest periods and meet their employees’ needs.

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