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 – in 2015, approximately 55 percent of Americans didn’t utilize all their PTO, which means employees didn’t take advantage of 658 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? Project: Time Off lists the top six barriers it identified in its survey:
- 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.
Costing You Money
While not directly tied to your salary or hourly wage, PTO is part of your employer’s benefit package, which does translate to money in your pocket. In 2015, Project: Time Off found 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 $223 billion.
Job Satisfaction & Health
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 across the board, in categories 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.”
Spilde also says for those who continue to not make taking time off a priority, stress can continue to 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.
Picking up 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.