Unused Vacation Part 1: Prevent Burnout and Boost Creativity

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Let this number sink in for a minute: 658 million.

That’s how many vacation days American workers left unused last year.

A recent study by Project: Time Off shows there is a huge disconnect between employees and managers when it comes to the value of taking vacation.

“The results of not fully unplugging include increased risk of burnout, diminished productivity, and stifled creativity, all of which can ultimately impact overall business performance.”

The survey found that while 93 percent of managers say time off for employees is important, only 39 percent of employees feel supported or encouraged to take time off. So where is the disconnect?

For starters, miscommunication. Nearly one in three managers admit they never talk to their direct reports about the importance of taking time off.

Another reason is that managers don’t lead by example. Not only do they leave vacation time on the table, but when they do take vacation, they often don’t fully unplug. And that is counterproductive.

The results of not fully unplugging include increased risk of burnout, diminished productivity, and stifled creativity, all of which can ultimately impact overall business performance.

When managers and executives leave vacation unused, or don’t fully unplug during vacation time, it makes employees feel guilty for taking their own time off, and leads them to fear a mountain of work when they return.

Most managers agree though that when employees take time off, they return to work with improved focus and productivity. Time off also allows employees to de-stress, improves their health and well-being, and cuts down on burnout.

And for managers and executives, they feel a renewed energy when they return to work that has a ripple effect throughout the organization.

Taking time off also helps boost creativity. When you’re on vacation, your mind is relaxed and has the capacity to look at things differently while generating new ideas.

So if you haven’t set a New Year’s resolution yet, perhaps now is the time. On the personal side, resolve to take ALL of your vacation time this year.

On the organizational side, put practices in place that encourage taking time off. You can also start by measuring the stress levels and employee wellness within the organization. This helps leadership quantify and begin to remedy both before they hit the bottom line.  And, they can re-measure to track progress down the road.