In a recent 2016 study by Project Time Off, it was found that more than half of all Americans (55 percent) let their vacation days go to waste this year; which – when you do the math – comes out to a whopping 658 million unused PTO days. “For decades, Americans enjoyed taking more than 20.3 days of vacation each year,” explains the Project Time Off study. “But beginning in 2000, vacation usage fell below that long-term average, setting off a steady decline that has stubbornly continued ever since.”
The phenomena of unused vacation time goes by many names – some call it “casualties of the workplace” while others refer to it as “the lost week.” The reasons for skipping a vacation range from financial concerns to fear of missing out on work; but new research shows that vacation time may offer countless benefits – from mental health to marital bliss.
With 658 million vacation days put to waste this year alone, Project Time Off calculates that 222 million of those days did not roll over or accrue, in other words, they went to waste. “By giving up this time off, Americans are effectively volunteering hundreds of millions of days of free work for their employers, which results in $61.4 billion in forfeited benefits,” reveals the study’s key findings.
Beyond the gratis money employers enjoy when employees don’t vacation, stats show that those who used less than 10 PTO days, were less likely to receive a promotion or bonus. When we look at the effects a vacation can have on work improvement, the numbers start to make sense.
“When somebody goes to work every day with no event that they’re looking forward to, they tend to work slower, less effectively, and less creatively,” explains Dr. Amanda Mulfinger, a clinical psychologist. “When they anticipate a break from the daily humdrum, their work improves and becomes more efficient.”
The importance of stepping outside of one’s routine and disconnecting cannot be underestimated. Centerstone, a not-for-profit healthcare network, tells The Huffington Post that “vacations helps shrink stress and anxiety while boosting the mental and physical health of the entire family.” Project Time Off findings reveal that 94% of Americans who used their vacation days reported an overall sense of improvement in their mood and outlook as a result. In other words, tell your boss that booking that trip to Cuba is necessary for your wellbeing.
One of the main reasons workers are deterred from using vacation time is the often daunting task of planning a trip. Pulling together a trip can be a time consuming task, which when done in conjunction with a full time job may seem impossible.
Unfortunately, most dreams of travel fall at the altar of travel planning proving too complicated. In a recent article by Culture Trip, staffers divulge destinations they would revisit again and again. The clear benefit of repeating a trip is skipping the trip planning in lieu of going somewhere you’re already familiar with, resulting in less pre-trip planning.
Laying on a beach, sipping a margarita and feeling miles away from your desk does more than offer relaxation; it significantly improves your physical health. To many this may seem counterintuitive as travelers tend to indulge in drinking, eating and sun while traveling; yet according to a study conducted by The landmark Framingham Heart Study, a vacation can decrease the risk of heart disease.
“Men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30% more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who did not take time off,” shares Healthnet, “And women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.”
In a study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal, 1,500 women were surveyed to compare the psychological and marital benefits of those who took vacations versus those who didn’t.
What the study ultimately concluded is that “women who take vacations frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed, or tired, and are more satisfied with their marriage” than those who didn’t. From increased satisfaction in relationships to better sex, vacations are the elixir of long lasting love and personal happiness.
*This post is written in collaboration with Flights.com as a part of its “Don’t Skip the Trip” campaign and social integration feature that shows you personalized flights based on places you’ve been in the past.