The Hidden Danger of Employees Who Don't Take Vacations

Last Updated Feb 1, 2011 9:39 AM EST

It's no secret that not everyone takes their allotment of vacation days each year. But did you know that, in fact, 66% of employees leave some vacation days on the table every year? That's the news from Forbes, which has the results of a study on vacation habits of corporate America.

That's bad news, both for the affected employees and the company. Says Douglas Matthews, a consultant with HR consulting firm Right Management:
"The research is clear that failing to take a vacation creates higher levels of stress and greater levels of disengagement at work."
There are a number of reasons that employees stay at work instead of taking their full load of vacation. Some of those include:

Budget constraints. In a recession, some people opt not to take a family vacation. In turn, many of those actually work rather than taking the days at home.

Value perception. It's easy for employees to come to believe that they are too valuable to take days off, or they cannot be spared.

Value insecurity. Closely related to an employee thinking they can't possibly leave the office or work will come to a grinding halt is the fear that their absence will demonstrate they're expendable -- out of sight, out of mind.

Time off recharges employees in many ways. Forbes notes that vacation promotes creative thinking and sharpens cognition. Likewise, Medical News Today cites studies that show higher levels of stress and depression in women who took fewer vacations.

The implications are obvious. It's important to drive home the value of using vacation days, and to find ways to help workers take advantage of all of their time off. Critically, it's essential to foster a culture in which employees feel comfortable and safe doing so.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Heather McLaughlin
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