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For many, taking time off from work for a summer vacation seems like a luxury. However, the importance of vacations shouldn’t be understated. Research has suggested that time off should be viewed as a necessity for our mental well-being.

54 percent of Americans did not use all their vacation time in 2016, leaving a collective 662 million vacation days on the table, according to research from Project Time Off. The primary reasons that people cited for not taking a vacation were that they believed:

  1. Their workload was too heavy to get away
  2. No one else can do their job
  3. It’s harder to get away as you advance in your career

Many of these beliefs can directly be influenced by a positive corporate culture and leaders that are vocal in their support of employees taking time off. And why shouldn’t they be supportive of employees taking the vacation time given to them? Research has shown that employees who use all, or most of their vacation time experience overall higher productivity and performance. They also see improved mental and physical wellbeing, as well as decreased chances of burnout at work.

Three Ways Leaders Can Encourage Vacation Time

  1. Walk the Talk: Show your employees the importance of vacations by using all of the vacation time allotted to you, and make sure your employees know that you’ve used it. Employees will see that you value your time off, and don’t think less of people who use it.
  2. Encourage Vacation Time: Keep track of your employees’ vacation time and send reminders to employees on a regular basis about how much vacation time they have remaining in the year. Encourage them to schedule vacations, which increases the chances of them using all of their vacation time.
  3. Reduce Anxiety: Help employees make a plan for when they’re away so they have peace of mind that their responsibilities are covered. This creates a strong team mentality and shows how co-workers can come together to support each other. It also makes the transition easier when returning from vacation, because the employee will know who to go to with questions about things that occurred while they were away.

Millennials and Vacation Time

Moving forward it will become increasingly important for managers to be vigilant about their employees’ use of vacation time. Studies have shown that millennials take less time off than other generations, and tend to feel more guilt over using vacation time.

Millennials came of age during the economic downturn and many had a long, hard process to get their first job. This may have affected how they view their vacation time. Millennials also began entering the workforce as the use of vacation time began to decline in 2000.

The Millennial generation is also the first that has had internet and email as part of their work life since day one. Millennials are more likely to stay plugged in during vacation compared to older generations, but it’s becoming clear that this is a bad habit for people of all generations.

This summer, let’s all take a moment to recognize the importance of vacations and the positive impact they have on us. Whether you travel far away or enjoy a local staycation, let’s prioritize our mental and physical wellbeing by taking a break from work and encourage others to do the same.