In today’s high-paced work environment, it’s more common than you might think for professionals to leave their hard-earned vacation days on the table. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, more than four in ten U.S. workers don’t take all their paid time off, succumbing to various pressures and fears. But what are the actual costs of this workaholic culture, and how can you break the cycle to become a better employee and, more importantly, a happier individual?

Use your Vacation Time

Why Are People Giving Up Paid Time Off?

The reasons employees skip out on vacation time are as varied as they are concerning.

Reasons for not taking time off:

  • Fear of falling behind and the amount of catch-up they will have to do when they return.
  • The guilt of leaving co-workers to pick up the slack
  • Fear that taking time off might affect their career trajectory and be seen as a lack of dedication.
  • Concern that they might risk losing their job.
  • Management discourages taking time off.

Astonishingly, a study conducted by Expedia found that 56 percent of workers feel discouraged from taking time off due to staffing shortages, adding another layer of complexity to the issue. Additionally, the increase in remote work and constantly connected technology has blurred the lines between work and personal time, making it harder to disconnect and truly enjoy a vacation.

It’s a startling reality that in 2019, a staggering 236 million vacation days were left unused, as reported by The U.S. Travel Association, Oxford Economics, and Ipsos. This translates to a whopping $65.5 billion in lost benefits. These numbers underscore a deeply rooted problem in our work culture, where time off is available but not utilized, leading to significant repercussions for both personal well-being and professional performance.

The Hidden Costs of Unused Vacation Time

While skipping vacation may seem like a small sacrifice, the consequences can be far more significant than many realize. Unused vacation time results in lost opportunities for rest and relaxation and can negatively impact not just your employee productivity, but also your mental health and overall job satisfaction. It’s crucial to understand the potential harm of not taking time off.


Contrary to popular belief, taking time off can increase productivity. Stepping away from work allows employees to recharge and return with renewed energy and focus. Not taking breaks can lead to burnout, decreased motivation, and, ultimately, lower-quality work.

Mental Health

Vacations are about physically leaving the workplace and mentally disconnecting from work-related stressors. The constant pressure to perform and meet deadlines can take a toll on an individual’s mental health. Taking time off allows employees to decompress, reduce stress levels, and return refreshed and more resilient.

Job Satisfaction

Employees who feel supported in taking time off are more likely to have higher job satisfaction. This can lead to increased company loyalty, engagement, and retention. On the other hand, employees who feel discouraged or unable to take vacations may become resentful towards their employer and ultimately seek employment elsewhere.

Why You Need To Use Your Vacation Time

Taking Time Off Makes You A Better Employee

Contrary to the misconception that more hours worked equals more productivity, taking breaks can significantly boost your performance. Time away from work allows for mental and physical rejuvenation, leading to a surge in creativity, productivity, and overall job satisfaction upon your return. Vacations can reset your system, providing fresh perspectives and renewed energy to tackle challenges in innovative ways.

Taking Time Off Makes You A Better Person

Beyond the professional benefits, using your vacation time is crucial for your personal development and well-being. Continuous work without adequate breaks can lead to burnout, stress, and a host of physical health issues, affecting not just your job performance, but also your relationships and overall quality of life. Vacations offer a much-needed opportunity to relax, pursue hobbies, and spend time with loved ones, contributing to a more balanced and fulfilling life. Your personal well-being is just as important as your professional success.

Tips for Planning Paid Time Off

The evidence is clear: using your vacation time is beneficial and necessary for maintaining optimal performance and well-being. Despite the pressures that may discourage you from stepping away from your desk, the rewards of taking that time are invaluable for both your personal life and professional career. Here are some practical tips for planning your time off: start early, communicate openly, disconnect, plan for your return, and consider staycations.

  1. Start Early: Begin planning your vacation well in advance. This gives you and your team ample time to prepare, ensuring your workload is managed effectively in your absence.
  2. Communicate: Communicate openly with your manager and colleagues about your vacation plans. This helps set mutual expectations and reduces any potential guilt or anxiety about taking time off.
  3. Disconnect: To reap the full benefits of your vacation, try disconnecting from work emails and calls. This separation allows you to relax and recharge without the intrusion of work-related stressors.
  4. Plan for Your Return: Before leaving, organize your tasks and outline a clear plan for catching up upon your return. Knowing you have a strategy in place can make your time off more enjoyable and stress-free.
  5. Consider Staycations: If traveling isn’t an option, consider a staycation to unwind and enjoy local attractions. The key is to step away from work, whatever form that may take.

Don’t let another year go by with unused vacation days. Start planning now, communicate with your team, and prepare to reap the benefits of taking well-deserved time off. Remember, the work will always be there, but the opportunity to refresh and rejuvenate is fleeting. Schedule your vacation today and take the first step toward a healthier, happier you.

I’m Here To Help

I can’t schedule your vacation for you, but I can help you with your career.  If you need help dealing with self-doubt, being accountable, and following through, consider joining my Monthly Career Trajectory Program. It is designed especially for career-minded professionals like you. It will help you with accountability. Consider it your personal check-in, where we’ll dive deep into your career goals and aspirations. CLICK HERE to schedule a quick call and secure your spot in my Monthly Career Trajectory Program.