Why is it important for employees to take vacations?

You’d think it would be unnecessary to explain the value of taking a vacation. Who among us doesn’t dream about long weekends, taking off two sun-filled weeks in the summer, or indulging in a few days of staying in and cozying up for Christmas? You would think it’s pretty clear that a break from our routines and the demands and stresses of work life shouldn’t have to be mandated. But you’d be wrong.

Canadian workers aren’t quite as vacation-resistant as our Japanese colleagues. In case you’re unaware, Japan’s work ethic is so historically extreme they’ve developed a word – karoshi – for death by too much work. We’re not quite that dramatic here in North America but we do operate under a work ethos that sees many of us live to work, rather than work to live, the way our European colleagues do. Canada scores low on rankings for the number of mandated vacation days per year, with just 10. Compare that with countries near the top of the list such as the UK (28), Sweden, Norway, Denmark and France (all 25).

why taking vacation is important work-life balance

millennials are most likely to leave vacation unused

According to Expedia’s Vacation Deprivation Study (yes, that’s a thing!) 31 million vacation days are left unused by Canadians each year. The fact that such a study exists and is referred to as ‘deprivation’ is, by itself, telling. Among its results, it found the average permanent, full-time Canadian worker received 17.3 vacation days in 2016, but only took 14. Interestingly, the study identified millennials as the demographic most likely to leave vacation days unused because they’re too busy at work. Given Millennials’ bad rap for being self-indulgent and work-shy, it’s an eye-opening statistic. The study also found that when Millennials do take vacations, they more likely check in frequently regardless of where they’re vacationing, thanks to the connectedness of email and mobile devices. Ontario and B.C. workers tied to take the fewest vacation days (just 14).

should vacations be mandated? (spoiler alert: yes they should)

What’s the big deal? People shouldn’t be forced to take vacations if they don’t want to, should they? If someone wants to work straight-through and is happy to do so, isn’t that a sign of dedication and commitment? Doesn’t the organization benefit from the efforts of these workaholics? The answer is actually pretty clear: no! Taking vacation is good for you, whether you like it or not!

In a study reported by Forbes, managers say they recognize the benefits of vacation time for employees and the companies they work for. Statistically, time off results benefits including higher productivity, stronger workplace morale, greater employee engagement and retention, and significant health benefits, all of which measurably and directly affect an organization’s bottom line.

Despite the above findings, many employees operate under the impression that taking time off makes them appear less dedicated. They may be on to something, as nearly 34% of managers discourage leave. Others support the idea of time off in principle, but workloads and imposed deadlines make taking a break all but impossible. Given the countless benefits of vacation, it’s hard to understand why.