Thinking of planning a vacation? In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, do it. Do it now.
According to a December survey, the average employee left two unused vacation days in 2011, which, according to CNNMoney (who used the average salary of the workers, $39,000, to calculate) adds up to $34.4 billion in time.
Want to guess where those profits go? Yup, directly to employers. Which may explain how many companies have reached ever-increasing productivity numbers in the past few years despite hiring freezes--as overworked employees have been either too insecure about their jobs to leave the office, or too financially strapped to buy a plane ticket.
In a trickle-down effect of awfulness, those insane levels of productivity may also be behind the slow hiring rates. Companies who can continue to squeeze workers for more days and hours on the job get away with taking on fewer new employees—while their stressed out employees need vacation time more desperately than ever.
Luckily, you don't need a lot of time to see results: psychologists tout the benefits of even 24 hours away from work as including better perspective on life and more motivation to achieve goals on the mental side. On the physical side, decreased risk of heart disease and shorter reaction times are a proven result of time off.
And if you're actually really concerned about the wellbeing of your company, don't be—it's healthy for them, too. Vacationing workers will be fresher while at work when they return (and thus more productive), but perhaps more important, the company itself will grow stronger with their absence: the practice of taking time away and having others step in for you is almost like a vaccine for emergency absences.
By lining up and organizing others to step in for you in case for planned time away, your coworkers will get practice performing your role and getting access to important information or documents. That leaves everyone more prepared in case a worker leaves unexpectedly—or for good.
Just look at companies like Motley Fool, GoHealthInsurance.com, and Netflix, where vacation time is unlimited. All reported improved productivity, and most saw remarkable amounts of growth.
Any last excuses? Maybe you don't have enough money to take a trip. If that's the case, fine--take a week to watch Archer on the couch and ignore your work phone. It can still work wonders.
Time off is vital to your productivity, happiness, and possibly the national employment rate—and you're throwing money away by not taking it. So really. Take it. And don't you dare feel guilty.
--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com
Unlimited Vacation Doesn't Create Slackers--It Ensures Productivity (Fast Company)
Vacations Help Job and Health, But Americans Skip Them (ABC News)
Americans to forfeit $34.3 billion in vacation days(CNN Money)
Corporations Are Letting Employees Work From Home, To Squeeze More Productivity Out Of Them (Huffington Post)
8 Potential Vacation Ruiners/Productivity Busters