If you've listened to the last 2 episodes…which were actually my first episodes, you know that I created this video podcast to help professional and entrepreneurial women get out of stress and overwhelm and find more energy and productivity (not just at work, but in life) using simple, sustainable habit change.
I’m recording this episode knowing it will go live on Labor Day…the holiday that really calls an end to Summer…even though Summer doesn’t technically end until September 22 with the Fall Equinox.
Where I live, in Wichita KS - most of the school kids have already started back in school. It seems like school starts so early now…my daughter’s school will already have been in session 3 weeks by the time this episode airs.
But still - Labor Day always feels like that line in the sand between the end of summer and the start of fall. And, it means there are 4 months until the end of the year.
This got me thinking about vacation time.
Whether your vacation time resets with the calendar year, or with your work anniversary, it’s always a good idea to have a plan for how you’re going to use it…
But it also got me wondering, how many of you don’t use your vacation time…or use some, but leave some on the table?
In 2018, the US Travel Association reported that each yearly, more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table, accumulating to 768 million days in 2018.
Qualtrics published research earlier this year, in March 2022.
Their results show that only 27% used their allotted paid vacation time last year. They also found that employees reported working at least an hour each day of their vacation.
Another 26% had a week or more of unused time leftover at the end of 2021. They reported doing so b/c they felt uncomfortable taking all the vacation time offered to them. The top 3 reasons for this:
fear of falling behind on work
fear of letting down a team
pressure from coworkers
Research shows: Rested employees are more productive employees.
Some ways taking time off work can benefit you include:
Improved mental health - helps you recharge, reset
Improved physical health - reducing stress gets your body out of the sympathetic stress response that we can find ourselves in after facing work stress day after day.
(Both of these, if you don’t mitigate their effects, can lead to burnout)
More clarity and productivity - your return to work with a fresh perspective
Reduced risk for burnout
Many employers want you to use that vacation time - for all of those benefits I just listed. Even so…
I’m going to throw just a few more Qualtrics Research findings at you:
45% of U.S. employees get two weeks or less of paid vacation time each year, and nearly one in ten (9%) get none at all.
32% of employees say their unused vacation days do not rollover to the next year
28% say they do not get paid for unused vacation days
The limits and the rules are really pretty astounding to me given the research that shows the massive benefits of taking a solid time off from work.
Regardless…YOU want, no - you really NEED to use your vacation time. Especially if you’re under a "use it or lose it" situation, and won’t get paid for it. You get zero benefit if you don’t take the time.
So, I want to share some tips for making the most of your vacation time to beat burnout and workplace stress.
TIPS FOR USING VACATION TIME
These tips are much from my experience:
Have a plan to use ALL of your days.
If you need to reserve some for childcare, illness, etc, fine - but set a date to repurpose those days if you haven’t used them - a date that allows some time to fit them into the schedule.
Aim for more days at one time vs 1-2 days off here and there.
The more days you’re away from work, the more your mind and body can decompress
I like to mix it up…I’ll take one day here or there around school outages so I can spend time with my daughter.
I’ll take a week off at least once during the year…this is usually reserved for our family vacation.
At my previous job, they implemented month-long sabbaticals and I was fortunate enough to have been there long enough to earn one.
I can tell you from personal experience that taking longer time off from work really does allow you to decompress and come back fresher.
Avoid the “workcation”
The point of vacation is to take a break from work…so do it.
This goes into setting boundaries - both for yourself and your employer to really honor this time away.
Occasionally an emergency may happen where you need to work…but keep this time to a minimum.
Avoid the "side-hustle-cation"
When you take time off, take it off - don’t use it for side-hustling (or keep it to a minimum)
I have been guilty of this - working on my side-hustle while on vacation seems like you finally have time to get stuff done…but you’re still not allowing yourself to decompress.
Your brain needs a break. It needs to rest just like your body does. Allow it that time.
If you need to take time to focus on your business, schedule very specific days during the year where you can do that.
Whether you’re there or not, the work still needs to get done. This is where cross-training your co-workers comes in handy. Not all employers understand how powerful this can be - but many do. If you’re some place that doesn’t have this, talk to your employer about how it can benefit.
Cross-training comes in handy for planned vacations for sure…but most especially for unplanned outages when you don’t typically have the ability to train someone
When you are able to have co-workers covering for your outage, make sure they have everything they need to be successful covering your work.
Start preparing 3-4 weeks in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute putting notes together or training them how processes work. This also allows them time to really understand how to do the work.
Don’t feel guilty
You don’t need to ask permission for this time off - everyone deserves it.
When it comes to your coworkers…still don’t feel guilty. You’ll have the opportunity to cover for them when they take their vacation
Try using vacation days around holidays…you get the extra days off without hitting your vacation bottom line. You get a little more bang for your buck.
Now, I’d like to offer you an Energizing Action you can try today or this week:
Review your plan to use your vacation days. Plot out when you’d like to use them…and try to get at least one block of 4-5 days off.
Then - enjoy your vacation time! I’d love to hear how you spend it!
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