Vacation Martyr

by | Productivity

Marcey Rader
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Do you carry over your vacation every year? Do you feel like you can't possibly take a couple of days off because of what you will have to conquer when you return?

Stop being a Vacation Martyr.

You're a liability to your company and to yourself.

According to Project: Time Off, Oxford Economics discovered $224 billion in liability sitting on American companies' balance sheets from unused vacation time. The average vacation liability per employee is $1,898.00 – $3,023.00 (but can be up to $12,000 depending on the role). The average decrease in days taken off per year has been 4.9 days since 2000. 


One of the reasons is Vacation Martyr Syndrome. I was once on a conference call with a guy while he was on a family vacation in the Mediterranean. I don't know if he thought he was super-important or super-loyal, but I actually felt sorry and thought less of him. Loyal? He left the company six months later, by choice or not, I don't know.

It hurts companies more to pay out vacation in cash than to have their employee take the time. It hurts the employee because there are typically caps on carrying over with more companies not allowing continuous accrual. If the company has a “use it or lose it” policy, employees are 84% more likely to take their vacation. Americans forfeited $52.4 BILLION in benefits last year.

75% of HR Professionals report employees who take most of their vacation perform better than those who take less.

When you take time off, you can recharge and renew. People coming back from vacation often note increased creativity and solving of complex problems since before they left. Ideas for businesses that happened on vacation include Instagram and Dropbox. In a survey of 1,000 small business owners, one in five startup ideas came while on vacation!

Unfortunately, most employees receive negative or mixed messages about taking time off, even though 91% of senior leaders recognize the benefits. Are they acknowledging in a broad perspective but not making sure it gets put into action?

Companies that encourage their employees to take a vacation have happier employees, which means they are less likely to leave their jobs.

  • RAND Corporation gives sabbatical pay and offers 3% of the monthly base salary for every day taken. Each year, employees who take all 20 vacation days are given an additional 5% of their annual base salary. This company must realize the return on productivity and creativity is much higher than 5%.
  • FullContact offers employees $7,500.00 to take their time off and makes disconnecting mandatory. Now that's what I'm talkin' about! If you're on vacation but you're still working every day, it's not really vacation or renewal time.
  • Motley Fool selects one employee a month at random to take two weeks off work the following month.
  • Less than 2% of companies, like Virgin Airlines, Nerd Wallet, Netflix, and MGM Resorts, have an unlimited vacation policy. Employees haven't abused it and have significantly more morale, creativity, and productivity.

One of my clients took a month-long sabbatical to Italy. To prepare, she started walking more, lost weight, and changed her diet. She had renewed energy and enthusiasm for life, something she couldn't have gotten in a long weekend or after a week abroad.

Another client has to work some holidays and weekends based on the nature of their work. Giving them an extra day off doesn't always make up for the time they missed, especially if they need to travel to visit family.

Don't be a Vacation Martyr or save up all your vacation. Take your renewal breaks to improve your health, your creativity, and your productivity.

And if you're the boss, encourage it and know you will get a better employee when they come back.

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