Americans take fewer and shorter vacations than any other Westerners in the world. Why? America has become a country of workaholics. In 1978, Americans were taking 20 paid vacation days on average, but in today’s economy, workers are feeling more pressure to stay behind their desk. In 2016, the average American took only 16 days of paid vacation. And while this trend may seem good for the American economy, new research is finding that the “live to work” mentality may actually be hurting people’s careers and happiness.
When it comes to your career, there are actually 5 good reasons to take as much vacation as you can:
1 Forgoing Vacation Won’t Get You Promoted
In their latest survey, the U.S. Travel Association found that Americans who are self-proclaimed “work martyrs” are actually less likely to receive a raise or bonus than people who are not admitted workaholics. In fact, the report shows that the “work martyr attitude” has a negative impact on people’s shot at a promotion. Counter to popular beliefs, taking more vacations could actually boost your chances at a raise by over 6%. Turns out, people who take less time off are not better off, just more stressed. So, if skipping your vacation doesn’t guarantee a fatter paycheck, is it really worth it?
2 Using All Your Vacation Time Saves You Money
In 2016, Americans forfeited 662 million vacation days. This means each person who worked too hard last year gave more than $600 on average back to their employer. These people essentially paid their employer for the time they spent working instead of playing. Who wants to take a voluntary pay cut instead of a snorkeling trip in the Bahamas? Sadly, many Americans feel they have too much work to take a vacation. But the reality is you’ll always have too much work. Letting your paid vacation days go to waste will not change reality. Take advantage of what time off you are given. As you’ll see, it could help you be more productive at work.
3 Planning Longer, More Exotic Vacations Makes People Happier
Not all vacation is created equal. People derive different levels of happiness from different types of trips. Currently, the average American vacation lasts four days and usually consists of domestic travel to visit relatives—which hovers around ‘mediocre’ on the happiness scale. And while family relationships are important, making plans to take longer and more exotic trips can invoke happiness like Uncle Ray’s 50th birthday party never will. Even the act of planning a more adventurous vacation makes people happier, according to the U.S. Travel Association. So why not start planning next year’s 2- to 3-week trip to the other side of the world right now?
4 Happier People Are More Productive at Work
New life experiences make people happier and happier people demonstrate higher productivity at work. Many of the world’s Fortune 500 Companies are already tapping into this psychology. That’s why companies that offer their employees hefty vacation benefits tend to be among the most profitable, not to mention the ones awarded ‘Best Places to Work’ in America. In this type of vacation-minded work environment, your boss will understand why taking a hot air balloon ride in Italy is good for business.
5 International Travel Leads to Job Satisfaction
Less than half of American workers are satisfied with their jobs and less than half of Americans own a passport. Might there be a connection? There is growing evidence to suggest that people who experience long-term, international travel are more satisfied when they return to work. Americans who have taken a ‘Gap Year’ now this first hand. In their latest survey, the American Gap Association found that 86% of Americans who took a Gap Year—a year of international travel that occurs immediately before or after university—said they felt satisfied or very satisfied with their job as an adult.
The good news is you don’t have to be 18 to take an extended vacation. Whether calling it a gap year, sabbatical, or leave of absence, international travel offers a thrilling experience of new cultures, climates, foods, sceneries, and activities for people of all ages and backgrounds. Spending time overseas helps people feel more connected to our global society and, in turn, more connected to their work at home.
Many Americans routinely skip vacations but this isn’t really the best strategy for your professional or personal life. In our struggle to get ahead, we’re losing out on the many benefits of taking a break now and then. Don’t feel guilty about taking time off – vacations can actually be good for your career!