Do you often find yourself at the end of the year with unused vacation days?
If so, then you are essentially working for free.
According to CNN, 23% of workers surveyed said they used all of their vacation days in the previous 12 months. That means that 77% of people had unused vacation days!
Also, this same survey showed that the average U.S. worker uses less than HALF of their paid days off.
So, I did some more research because I find this subject so interesting. According to CNBC, on average, American workers gave up around $604 in lost benefits by ending the year with unused vacation days and other paid time off.
I find this topic interesting because when I used to work for others, I would never use all of my paid vacation days.
I usually left at least a few days at the end of each year just because I was afraid that taking all of them would make it look like I either hated my job or that I was taking advantage of the company's vacation policy.
In my mind, using every last paid vacation day made me look bad, like I was ungrateful.
The reality is that those days are yours, and if you aren’t using those days, you are essentially spending some portion of your time working for free.
How dumb was it of me to think like that, though?! I could have taken much more vacation time and probably would have been much happier at my job.
The above statistics are alarming when we consider that workers in the United States already work far more than the average person in many other countries around the globe. Coupled with the fact that workers in the U.S. typically receive fewer vacation days in the first place means this is something that needs to be changed.
If you're anything like the average person, then you may be leaving unused vacation days on the table, and here’s why you should be taking all as much paid time off as possible:
You'll be happier taking more vacation days.
According to a survey done by Project Time Off, your happiness is directly related to the amount of vacation time you take. Those who took more than 75% of vacation time reported a happiness rate of 61%.
Those who took less than 25% had a happiness rate of 39%.
Of course this makes sense.
There are so many reasons to take a vacation, and so many reasons for why a person may need a break from work.
Vacations, whether you stay at home or travel somewhere far, far away, can be a great thing.
You deserve the vacation time.
You were given the vacation days for a reason – they are a part of your compensation.
Companies have vacation policies because it is best for both the company and the employee to have time off from work.
By leaving unused vacation days, which are built into your pay, you are actually throwing money away since you are technically working for free on those days.
I recommend you add up how many days you are throwing away and how much you would have been paid on those days. That's how much money you are throwing away each year!
You'll perform better at work.
Those who take their vacation days are often more motivated, refreshed, and more creative after a vacation.
Your brain needs a break every now and then and some time off can help you do that.
This can help you to work better when you return, so it's a win-win for both you and the company you work for.
Related article: How To Stay Motivated And Become Successful
You're hurting your health by leaving unused vacation days.
By working all the time and leaving unused vacation days, you are hurting your health. You are more likely to be sick, have heart disease, be depressed, be unfit, and more.
Taking all of your vacation days can help improve your health, plus you can have fun, so why not start using all of your vacation days?
You don't have to go broke taking time off.
One reason many workers give for why they don't take all of their vacation days is because they don't think they can afford to go anywhere.
Well, whoever said that you had to go somewhere when you take a vacation day?! There is no weird vacation policy rule that says you must leave your city in order to take your vacation days.
Instead of spending a ton of money, you could take a staycation instead by enjoying the city you live in or just staying at home to relax. There is nothing wrong with that.
Honestly, you can even use your vacation days to take care of things you need to do around your house, work on a side hustle, or more.
Or, you could churn credit cards so that you can go on very cheap vacations (you must read How To Take A 10 Day Trip To Hawaii For $22.40 – Flights & Accommodations Included for more information).
Related article: Here’s How To Save Thousands For Your Next Vacation
Here's how to start using all of your days.
Let's make 2018 the year where you use all of your paid days off – no more unused vacation days at the end of the year! After all, it may help you to alleviate some of your stress, do better at work, and more.
If you want to start using those unused vacation days, here’s how you can start:
Be strategic. If you are like any normal human, you probably want to be strategic about your time off. You most likely won't want to use all of your vacation days in January, as then you wouldn't be able to take any other days off for the rest of the year. If your paid days off also include your sick days, then being strategic can be extremely important because you may want to save some paid days for later in the year. I usually recommend leaving just a few days for the end of the year and scheduling them for November or December. What I used to do is leave just a few days for the end of the year, and take every Friday off. I also threw in some half days towards the end of the year. But, I still didn't use all of my paid days because I was afraid it would make me look bad!
Take a personal day. You don't actually need to go on vacation in order to use a paid day off. Surprisingly, many people think that they can only use vacation days for an actual vacation. Instead, you may just want to take a day off and just relax. Or, maybe you just want to stay home the whole week and catch up on life. The half days and Fridays off that I mentioned in the previous bullet point were so that I could have more time for me. I would use the time to side hustle, relax, sleep in, and more.
Realize that there will always be work. One of the top reasons for leaving unused vacation days is because many people feel that they literally cannot take a day off from work. They feel that work will just pile up while they are gone, and that time off may not feel worth it once they come back to work. If that's the case, then you may need to seek help from others at your company by having others cover for you when you are not there, trying to get tasks done before you leave, and so on. There will always be work, but it’s important to realize that you need a break too.
Remember that this is a part of your compensation. You wouldn't let your boss keep a paycheck for a week that you worked, so why would you let them keep paid vacation days? If you have paid days off, then you should use all of them.
Have you left unused vacation days on the table? What's your company's vacation policy?
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