6 Reasons You Should Take a Vacation Every Summer

By Sarah Simmons | 08/07/2016

Summer is peak travel season, a time when you might expect to see the ranks of coworkers in your office thin out a bit as people head off for their favorite destination. Or not.

American workers generally get less paid time off than their counterparts in other countries, but many of us still aren’t using that time. In a recent study by Project: Time Off, 55% of the people surveyed who received vacation time last year left some of it unused. Another survey by Glassdoor showed that the average American employee only uses about half of their paid time off.

The reasons workers gave for opting out of taking a trip varied, but falling behind on work and worries about who would pick up the slack were among the biggest. If some of the same things are holding you back from getting away, consider the following reasons for why you should take a vacation instead of stressing about all the reasons you shouldn’t.

1. You might actually be hurting your chance at getting a raise or bonus:

You might think staying in the office at all costs will help you get ahead, but Project: Time Off’s findings show that the opposite might be true. Their survey data reflects that employees who took 11 days or more of vacation over the past three years were more likely to receive a bonus or raise than those who took less.

2. Taking a break can boost your creativity:

Spending your days dwelling on the same subjects can put you into a mental rut. Without a way to get some distance and refresh your mind, you may find yourself going back to the same ideas you’ve had a million times before. We can experience mental fatigue in the same way we experience physical fatigue, and when your brain gets tired it decreases your ability to be creative. But taking time away can increase the probability of new ideas, as Lotte Bailyn, an MIT researcher, stated in a recent Boston Globe article. Getting some mental and physical distance from work on a vacation will mean that you come back to your work with fresh eyes.    

3. You’ll lower your stress level:

Many Americans count their job as one of the major sources of stress in their life.  That constant stress can lead to burnout, not to mention a number of health issues, if you don’t take the time to get away from it for a while.  Mina Westman, a Tel Aviv University professor of management, stated in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article that lower levels of stress are only one benefit of taking a vacation, along with less fatigue, lower blood pressure, and less strain.

4. You’ll improve your family relationships:

When you go over your fondest childhood memories, it’s likely that at least a few are from vacations you took with your family. Think about how using your PTO days to plan a vacation with your kids could mean taking a trip that they’ll remember years from now. Whether you travel with your kids or just your spouse, taking the time to get away from work worries and focus on family will give you the time to catch up and communicate, which will only make your relationships stronger.  

5. You’ll bounce back quicker:

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, being resilient isn’t about pushing through every obstacle and continuing forward even when you feel exhausted. Instead, you’ll be better equipped to cope with new challenges if you take some time to recover and recharge. The longer you continue from one task to another without a break, the more you deplete your mental and physical resources and risk overwork. Taking a vacation can help you build those resources up again, and will enable you to perform your best when you get home.  

 6. You’re leaving money on the table:

Paid time off is one of the benefits you get from your company, just like health insurance or a 401k. Put another way, it’s part of the compensation you get for the work you do. Project: Time Off’s research states that Americans left 658 million vacation days unused in 2015, with 222 million of those days being lost—meaning they couldn’t be rolled over or paid out. That lost time is equal to $61.4 billion in benefits that American workers didn’t get. Have you ever taken the time to calculate how much money you’re leaving on the table by not taking your vacation days? Consider the financial value of that time before letting it slip away again this year.