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Overworked and Underplayed: Vacation Days are Forfeited While Americans Leave Billions of Dollars Wo

Why so tired?

Even though their employer’s benefits handbook tells them that they are entitled to a specific amount of paid vacation every year, more than have of American employees (54%) took their entitled amount in the past twelve months. The average worker receiving two weeks paid vacation is leaving five days on the table, unpaid. This employee is giving hundreds of dollars or more back to the company, and the employee is left with lingering fatigue.

At first, this might look like good news as cost savings to the company, but there is an underlying dark cloud that accompanies such a statistic. Build up enough fatigue in an employee, and quality starts to suffer along with engagement. Employees who forfeit their vacation days do not perform as well as those who use all their time.

Aside from critical errors, the cost of replacing that employee costs an average of $4125 – all for the savings of a few hundred dollars. Add to that the lost productivity as the new employee ramps up to speed with the rest of the team.

Why employees deny themselves vacation time

The reasons why employees deny themselves vacation time are often more about perception than reality. Signs like this point to a need for correction in the culture of the team or the entire company.

Seventy percent of vacation forfeiters say that their company culture is negative, is silent about vacation time, and sends mixed messages.

Top reasons Americans aren't using all of their vacation days:

As a leader in your organization, consider new messaging your team can promote to make positive changes, and eliminate these perceptions within your culture:

Returning to a mountain of work: 43 percent

The last recession a decade ago encouraged many corporations to operate in a leaner capacity and reduce redundancy. Teams are so lean that each maintains a maximum capacity of work. One missed person can topple the entire system, and it becomes difficult to compensate when the team is down one person. They may do a bare minimum of work, leaving the rest for the vacationer upon their return.

Feeling that no one else can do their job: 34 percent

This reason and the first reason go hand-in-hand, for one is often the cause of the other. In some lean environments, some specialists are left on a deserted island of knowledge. These employees not only feel isolated and a lack of relief at times like vacation, but also leaves the company at risk with nobody else to take on the job in the event of a sudden exit for any reason.

The pressures of a senior role: 33 percent

For many senior leaders, the job never sleeps, much to their detriment and exhaustion. On one side, some believe that’s why they make the big bucks, and it’s par for the course. In reality, that fatigue brings the same results of the front-line employees. Critical thinking softens, engagement reduces, and fatigue takes over on the way to their eventual exit (which is much more expensive than the average onboarding cost.) Leaders at all levels should have a delegate or peer with authority to keep things running on their behalf during their absence.

Can’t financially afford a vacation: 32 percent

Affordability is probably where the term “staycation” came from. An experiential Lifestyle Spending Account from Work2Live is an ideal way to encourage employees to take that precious vacation and treat themselves and their family to something memorable. Employees can save their funds to use toward one or multiple experiences. If there is an experience that exceeds their account balance, they may pay the difference themselves and take advantage of the discount.

Want to show complete dedication: 26 percent

Some workers have concerns about suffering some kind of stigma for taking vacation days.

The U.S. Travel Association conducted a survey of 5000 workers and found that 28 percent of those workers were concerned about appearing like a slacker if they took a vacation and considered skipping vacation was a display of their dedication.

Fear missed opportunities

Young professionals fear being passed over for promotions if they took time off. As employees muscle through heavier workloads, others are afraid of not meeting goals because their vacation time would count against them.

Lack of support

Here is a sobering statistic that the majority of employees agreed on: 80 percent of employees said that they would feel more comfortable taking more time off if they felt fully supported and encouraged by their boss.

How leadership can help encourage vacations

As a leader, you are like a maestro for the culture and tone of your team’s temperament and best practices. Here are some suggestions to change the tempo and your team’s way of thinking around taking time off.

Set the example – be the example

Promote the decision to take time off as a means of avoiding burnout and maintaining productivity and work-life satisfaction. Start the change with being the example to the team by planning to take time off yourself.

Put it on the calendar

Set a time of year where the team secures their dates (or ranges) for vacation plans. Even if they are not sure of what exactly their plans will be on their time off, they have committed to taking a break. In doing so, they have created the opportunity to take a vacation and are encouraged to make concrete plans for that secured time.

Define necessary notice to make preparations

Preparing for one employee’s leave be easier than another employee, depending on the skill level. This is a great time to think about the knowledge between different roles on the team. There should be at least two people with the knowledge, ability, and authority to do each job. As a leader, be prepared to delegate tasks during that employee’s time away, so it remains current in their absence.

Use the LSA account to your employees’ advantage

With a Work2Live LSA account program at your company, use it as a means of recognition and rewards on the team. Not only does it promote job satisfaction and appreciation, but it also provides a means to make an employee’s time off meaningful and fulfilling.

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