At least compared to Europe, the U.S. is known to be somewhat of a “workaholic” nation, where work weeks that last well over 40 hours are commonplace. According to a new survey by the U.S. Travel Association, most Americans aren’t taking advantage of their paid time off — and don’t even quite understand what benefits they have in terms of paid vacation.
It’s probably because Americans are too busy worrying about making a bad impression, leaving work unfinished, piling work on co-workers, or getting replaced by someone else. It's been drilled into employee mentality that 20+ people out there would just love to have your job. Especially in post-recession America, employees worry that they’re disposable, and valued less by employers. And this creates a fear in employees that prevents them from having a better quality of life.
Though many of you may be ambition- and career-chasers, you may struggle often with burnout, stress, and all-around physical and mental exhaustion. This is why it’s important to take your vacation days. It’s important to travel, take a break, and get out of your work routine for a little bit. It’s equally essential to your health and well-being to have occasional “staycations” and mental health days, too. Better understanding what your benefits are as an employee can help reduce your fear that you will be replaced.
In the study, researchers found that bosses were not consistent in reminding employees about their paid time off, and did not always encourage their workers to take a break. But when the researchers asked senior business leaders what would convince them to approve paid-time off (PTO) requests, the top reason was giving employees a chance to return to work re-energized, recharged, and renewed, “ready to work more efficiently and productively.” Sixty-eight percent of senior business leaders believe that giving PTO to employees could help them de-stress and improve their health, and simultaneously reduce sick days. Yet many employers find it difficult to approve PTO requests because it places an extra burden on the other employees, the study found.
But reducing stress is a good reason for employers to make sure their employees are taking advantage of PTO. Stress and anxiety can have a long-term effect on physical well-being, which can ultimately make employees less productive, less happy, and less likely to save the company money.
A 2010 study out of the American Psychological Association described America as an “overstressed nation.” “Feeling the effects of prolonged financial and other recession-related difficulties, Americans are struggling to balance work and home life and make time to engage in healthy behaviors, with stress not only taking a toll on their personal physical health, but also affecting the emotional and physical well-being of their families,” the authors of the study write. So next time you’re feeling like you need a mental health day, don’t feel guilty about asking for a day off — you really need it.