Monday, April 22, 2024

Don't be a hero: If you have vacation time, use it

Of all the things that confuse me about Americans (and I say this as an American), the most perplexing is probably the concept of unused vacation time.

I don't have all the numbers in front of me, but I'm willing to bet that nowhere else in the world do people leave 25% or more of their paid time off (PTO) on the table. That's about the average percentage of unused PTO in the U.S. each year, according to figures reported by Forbes.

I happen to really enjoy what I do for a living, but the idea of someone offering to pay you the same amount of money to go off and do something fun and relaxing as they do when you're at work, and you responding "No thanks, I'm good!" does not compute in my brain.

I use every last hour of PTO every year, without exception. It's silly not to.

Now, I realize some people are in job situations where they simply can't take time off, for whatever reason. Or at least they think they can't take time off without something bad happening at work.

If that describes you, please know that I love you. Truly I do. But understand, you're not indispensable. Life at the office/plant/hospital/store goes on without you.

Actually, that's one reason some people give for not taking their vacation time. They're afraid that if they leave for a week or two and everything goes well, their boss will think they're not important to the success of the organization.

I am a boss, and I have worked for many bosses. I can say with confidence that no boss I've ever encountered would think that way.

Admittedly, this all assumes you have paid time off available to you in the first place. The folks at Forbes say 28 million Americans don't get any PTO at all, making the U.S. "the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation and paid holidays."

This is not a point of pride, my fellow Yankees.

Of course, there are also those who have started their own businesses and simply don't have the financial wiggle room to take off for the beach and go unpaid for any length of time. That I get.

To you hearty entrepreneurs I say, "Good luck and Godspeed."

But as for everyone else, we need to understand that taking vacation time is good for us and it's good for our employers. We can't be "on" 24/7/365, nor can anyone reasonably expect us to be. Human beings are more productive and more engaged when they're intentional about scheduling downtime to rest and recharge.

I'm not the best relaxer in the world, but even I realize the truth of this.

Take those PTO hours, folks, please. For your own sake.

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