4 strategies to make sure your paid vacation doesn’t go unused

The following column from Jennifer Pagliara, CapWealth Senior Vice President and Financial Advisor, was posted by The Tennessean on July 2, 2018.

(Photo: Getty Images/TongRo Images RF)

At some point or another, all of us get worn out, feel exhausted and just need a break from work. As we head into summer, many might be counting down the days until the annual beach vacation or that trip to explore a part of the world they’ve never seen. Time away from the office is vital to remaining motivated and refreshed. So why are there so many unused vacation days?

Generally, benefits are a big part of why someone does or doesn’t take a job. Notoriously, the perks of working at Google are quite extensive. A few of these include an onsite gym, free meals (all three if you want) and the ability to bring in speakers to discuss specific topics of interest. While not all jobs go to such lengths, vacation days are a standard benefit for most jobs. So, to put it in the simplest terms possible: The company you work for is allowing you to go on vacation and still get paid. Why would anyone want to waste that opportunity?

According to Glassdoor, a jobs and recruitment website, only 23 percent of employees who get paid time off took all the time they were entitled to. In 2014, that number was at 25 percent. An even more shocking statistic was that 9 percent of employees who get paid time off took no vacation days. Project Time Off completed a study in 2016 that reported American workers had 658 million unused vacation days — that accounts for about 55 percent of all workers who didn’t use all of their vacation time.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” she notes the astounding number of people who quit their jobs due to burnout and yet, inevitably, those are the people who have unused vacation days. She explained that it doesn’t shock her anymore, though, because the pattern has repeated itself so many times throughout her career.

So what is stopping us from taking vacation? I believe there are four overwhelming reasons:

  • Vacation shaming: We are all now connected to our jobs pretty much 24/7. It is not uncommon for our co-workers to have our cell phone numbers and for our work emails to be on our phone. Because of that, it can be very easy for a co-worker to text you about something going on at work or for us to constantly check our emails.
  • Lack of planning: Some people wait until the last minute to plan vacations. The problem with that is they can be too expensive if not planned in advance.
  • Too expensive: Taking a vacation just might not be an affordable option for some. This might lead them to just continue working instead of taking time off.
  • Too much work to do: Some employees just simply feel like they have too much work to do and cannot take the time off.

Here are some tips to help combat this:

  • It’s important that any organization instills a culture that respects people’s time away from the office. Everyone needs rest and a break from the office, and after being able to enjoy their time off, employees can come back recharged and ready to give their best.
  • It’s never too early to plan a trip. In January, go ahead and schedule the days you want to take off for vacation and get it approved by your boss. This will encourage you to plan the trip in advance.
  • If you can’t afford to take a trip right now, do a “stay-cation.” Get things done around the house or go explore the city you live in. Simply being away from the office is going to give you some well-deserved rest!
  • I hate to say this, but work is never going to end. There will always be something else that has to be done. Complete all the time time-sensitive items that you can and then go enjoy a vacation! Your work will be waiting for you when you get back.

Just remember, vacation days (normally) cannot be rolled into the next year or paid back to you for the unused time. They are purely lost and result in $61.4 billion in lost paid time off annually according to Project Time Off. So, the next time you’re thinking of not using your vacation days, think twice.

Jennifer Pagliara is a senior vice president and financial adviser with CapWealth Advisors, LLC, and a proud member of the Millennial generation. Her column speaks to her peers and anyone else that wants to get ahead financially.