The Project: Time Off coalition, an initiative aimed at driving culture change around Americans using vacation time to the fullest, recently completed its latest survey analyzing paid time off (PTO) trends in the United States. The results showed that in 2017, approximately 52 percent of Americans didn’t utilize all their PTO, which means employees didn’t take advantage of 705 million vacation days.
It can be difficult to justify taking vacation time, regardless of your industry. But, as the study reveals, not taking the PTO you earned could be costing you money and job satisfaction.
What’s stopping Americans from taking time off from work? When “Project: Time Off” conducted a similar survey in previous years, they found the top six barriers to taking vacation were the following:
- Returning to a large work load.
- No one else can do the job while you’re out.
- Not being financially able to afford time off.
- Taking time off becomes harder as you advance in the company.
- Wanting to show complete dedication to your work.
- Fear of being seen as replaceable.
Not Taking PTO Costs You Money
While it is not directly tied to your salary or hourly wage, paid vacation time and sick leave are part of your employer’s benefit package, which does ultimately translate to money in your pocket. In 2015, Americans essentially lost $61.4 billion in benefits by not using their PTO. The implications are bigger than your individual benefit offering, too. The overall cost to the U.S. economy due to unused PTO comes close to $255 billion.
Not taking time away from your work actually decreases your overall job satisfaction. "Project: Time Off" suggests planning your vacation time out in advance each year. According to the survey, employees are happier in areas of their lives, such as professional success, relationships with families and friends, physical health and more, when they utilize the time off they earn.
UnityPoint Health Wellness Manager, Stefanie Spilde, emphasizes the health benefit that can come from making an effort to step away from the work environment.
“Taking time off helps to remind us who we are outside of work,” Spilde says. “Oftentimes, our interests and hobbies get put by the wayside when we feel bogged down at work. Time off helps you revive your relationships with family members and friends, who may take a back seat at times.”
How Does PTO Affect Your Health?
Spilde says for those who don't prioritize personal time off, stress can negatively impact their health.
“Time off from work can help decrease your risks of many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, depression and hypertension. High levels of stress can lead to chronic inflammation, which is associated with every major age-related disease. Although everyone has stress, those that live the longest are proven to take time to down shift to shed stress,” Spilde says.
Leaving work for a week or more at a time can be difficult and not always feasible. But, Spilde says even taking a day off here and there can start to make a big difference.
“Nothing can lead to an anxiety attack faster or contribute more to feeling rundown than working a million days all in a row. Taking even one day off can help you reset mentally and make it easier to have a clear head once back at work.”
Worried your job could be contributing to your stress levels? Contact your UnityPoint Health provider to make sure your stress isn’t negatively affecting your health.