Chances are you’ve missed out on taking a paid vacation day over the past year. The numbers are staggering, with 55% of Americans reporting that they ended the year with unused paid vacation days.  That’s 658 million vacation days left untaken. What you might not realize is that missing those days is directly connected to how much money you’re making, and not in a good way either! People who end up not taking their vacation days are more likely to make less money than those that do.
I’ve been away for the greater part of the month enjoying some much-needed paid time off (hence the low number of blog posts). I spent that time with my family, doing a few mini-vacations, which really helped me recharge after a busy few months. The time away gave me the opportunity to take a step back from what was keeping me busy and helped me refocus. I came back to work last week with fresh ideas and new motivations, something that I hadn’t had the time to think about before.
The above graph illustrates the difference between those that take all their vacation days and those that don’t. In the study, the people who took 11 or more vacation days had a 65.4% greater chance of getting a raise or bonus. Those numbers are huge, and illustrate the value of taking time off.
Unfortunately, today people are taking even less vacation days than before, even as companies move towards provided more paid time off. There are a lot of theories as to why this is happening, but just think back to the last time you ended the year with days left over. Did you feel like you just couldn’t take time off? Was it your own sense of responsibility? Was it your manager not approving your time? If so, why? It’s important to really dig deep to see what’s getting in the way.
When I first saw this graph, I thought that it must mean people are more productive today. The fact of the matter, however, is that national productivity hasn’t increased at a rate that would make up for this drop . Meaning, people are working more hours but not getting more done. Think about it this way: you feel like you need to work more but you’re actually not doing a better job than the person who used to work less. It’s a crazy thought, but the numbers are proof enough.
To add even more insult to injury, although our paychecks are bigger, purchasing power is at an all time low. This means that our pay hasn’t grown at the same rate of inflation and cost of living. So not only are we not taking our paid time off, we’re also not making as much money as before.
The numbers really speak for themselves, but the point of this post is to encourage you and everyone else to take your paid time off. It’s there for a reason, and those who are able to balance their work and life, tend to be more successful. If you feel like you just can’t get away, chances are you’re not working smart, even if you’re working hard—and companies today need smart, not just hard, workers.
 The Data-Driven Case for Vacation – https://hbr.org/2016/07/the-data-driven-case-for-vacation
 For Most Workers, Real Wages have Barely Budged for Decades – http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/09/for-most-workers-real-wages-have-barely-budged-for-decades/
 Economic Trends and Productivity Growth Decline in America – http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2016/09/27/productivity-growth-decline-america/id=73195/
Credit: Feature image by Freepik