Our Case for the Vacation: How taking time off increases your professional success

It’s okay to do nothing. In fact, it’s good for you.

Studies show that over the past 40 years, Americans have been taking less and less time off of work. Data collected by tax company Intuit found that nearly 61% of employees who received paid time off didn’t use all (if any) of it. Of the employees that did cash in their PTO, 52% reported they did at least some work during that time anyway. 

So, why are we so bad at taking time off? According to Harvard Business Review, technology and social media have created a world in which it’s impossible to do nothing. Not only do our work lives and our home lives bleed together more every year, but our downtime is spent scrolling through a network showcasing people’s successes. Our culture values productivity, and many of us have a (false) belief that taking time off will prevent us from being successful. Here are the reasons why that’s wrong, and why taking your PTO is good for your work, and for your health.

When the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31%, sales increase by 37%, and creativity and revenues can triple.

The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor

Improved sleep and mood.

Studies have shown that employees sleep better and feel more mentally and emotionally balanced after a vacation, with measurable positive effects lasting over a month after returning to work.

Decreased fatigue.

A study published in Occupational Medicine found that vacations taken in sunnier, warmer climates especially helped combat work-related exhaustion, and also helped individuals boost their productivity once returning to work.

Increased productivity.

Just as vacations have been shown to increase individual productivity, companies that switch over to a shorter work week also see huge leaps in employee productivity. When Microsoft Japan switched to a three-day weekend, for instance, the company experienced productivity gains of 40%. Other studies have shown that employees who take an extra day off not only got more done, they also report being prouder of their accomplishments.

Using all of your PTO, rather than some or none of it, raises your chances of getting a promotion or raise by 6.5%.

Harvard Business Review