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Vacation Time: Use It Or Lose It?

Posted on December 12, 2017

The term “use it or lose it” has two distinct meanings in American workplace culture. It can refer to companies where you lose vacation days if you don’t take them. But the term also applies to workers so burned out from not taking vacations that they “lose it” – becoming stressed out and unproductive.

So, in the holiday spirit, let’s take a moment to ponder the subject of vacation days. Namely, let’s make sure that you get yours.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half, offers the following points for workers and managers:

  • Be proactive. Check your time off balance and your firm's rules on unused vacation days. "Use it or lose it" policies differ according to state and local laws, as well as individual employer policies. Don't make assumptions or find out the hard way that you lost valuable time.
  • Find a way to unplug. Think twice about your rationale for skipping out on vacation. Employers offer vacation time for good reason. You're less effective at work and have a higher risk for burnout if you don't take a break. If you don't have funds to take a trip, you can still relax and recharge at home with a staycation.
  • Talk to your team. Instead of emailing workers with high vacation balances to remind them to take time off, managers should have conversations one on one. In doing so, they may uncover the reasons why they're not taking time, and help rearrange priorities or get extra help.
  • Set the example. Employees who never see their boss take time off or truly unplug from work may find it difficult to step away from the office. Don't make working around the clock the norm for your team.

Remember, studies show that workers who don’t take vacation time get burned out and become less productive. So it’s time to promote a vacation culture at work.