As the end of the year approaches, some American workers are looking at the calendar and realizing that they once again haven’t used all of their allotted vacation time, and won’t be able to do so before another New Year’s Day rolls around.
It’s a surprisingly common situation. Polls and estimates indicate that U.S. workers are not taking as much as half of their permitted paid vacation days each year — benefits that are worth about $62 billion. One study concluded that only 23 percent of employees used all of their permitted vacation time. Another 23 percent used less than one-quarter of their allowed time off, 19 percent used between one-quarter and one-half of their vacation time, 16 percent used between one-half and three-quarters of their holiday allotment, and 9 percent took no vacation time at all.
Why aren’t people taking the time off that they’ve earned? Believe it or not, one of the more common stated reasons for forgoing vacations is that it’s hard to arrange for pet care. Other workers confess that they’re just worried about their jobs — whether it’s purported concern that nobody else can take care of their responsibilities while they are gone or fear that leaving might put their job in peril somehow. In my experience, still others simply have the martyr complex, and like to portray to their co-workers and supervisors that although they in fact would prefer to take a vacation, they’re just too busy and important to actually do so. (Here’s a tip for the martyrs out there: no one believes you when you say that, and it’s irritating, besides.)
I long ago decided that vacations are important — in fact, as important as anything else about your job. I think it’s crucial to take regular holidays to avoid job burnout and to remain fresh and engaged with your workplace responsibilities. My practice is to always have a vacation somewhere on the upcoming calendar so there is something to look forward to, and as soon as I return from one I try to get the next one scheduled. Otherwise, six months down the road you realize that you really could use some time off but your upcoming calendar is filled and there are no openings until months in the future — by which time you’re approaching a year since your last vacation. That’s a pretty miserable way to live your life.
And by the way, there are lots of good facilities out there to take care of your pets, so you can’t use that as an excuse. In fact, if you’ve gone months without taking a vacation, your pooch probably senses your mounting stress level and is finding you pretty hard to be around, anyhow. A stay at the Pet Palace might be a holiday for Fido, too.