Although Labor Day weekend usually heralds the time to put away your swim trunks and picnic blankets, for many working Americans, the holiday is the last chance they’ll have to take some much-needed time off. Unfortunately, most employees won’t take that opportunity, as nearly 57% of Americans leave an average of 11 vacation days unused each year, according to study by Harris Interactive.
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Increased fears about job security and financial stability may be to blame—the study found that 9% of respondents were hoarding vacation days due to fear of losing their job. Particularly in the professional world, America has become a work-obsessed nation, and time-in has become a badge of honor.
While it’s true that dedication and hard work will pay off, no employer wants a burned-out staffer who is unhappy, unfocused, and unproductive. Many of us have lost sight of the importance of spending time with our families—and with ourselves. In order to ensure your work performance doesn’t slack and you get some much-needed down time, you’ve got to enjoy those vacation days while you can. The next time you’re thinking of leaving unused days on the table, consider the following:
Get Over Yourself – Separating from work is critical to preventing burnout. You can’t be engaged with your job all the time and expect to be fresh. The office will function just fine without you for a few days. Take those vacation days when you want them and remember that the company isn’t going to fall apart when you leave.
Plan Your Coverage – There will always be last-minute fires to put out, but if you don’t put your foot down and let your boss know that you need time off, you’ll never get it. Do what you need to do to make sure your workload is covered and that any problems that arise in your absence can be addressed by someone else.
Be Present – A vacation doesn’t count if you have your laptop open every morning and are constantly checking your smartphone. Let yourself escape when you’re on vacation. Balancing work life and personal life may be more of an art than a science, but it is possible to achieve a happy medium. Be there for your spouse and family!
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If you’re still having trouble walking away from your desk, consider that most American companies offer employees far less time off than employers in most other developed nations of the world. Simply put, when you work hard, you deserve the vacation days owed to you. This year, as summer comes to a close, ask yourself this question: Have I taken enough time off this year?
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook