It’s fair to say that almost all the candidates we work with are looking for a good Vacation and PTO offering in their compensation package. However, in the US, standard vacation packages haven’t changed much over the years. Professional salaried employees can expect 10 days and 15 days for more tenured, senior staff. In comparison much of Europe offers 20-30 days with Spain and Germany at the top with 34 days. In Australia the average is 20 days and Canada the average is 15 days.
But this isn’t the story that interests us. What we find fascinating is that in our country over 50% of employees don’t use all of their vacation time, most only use 5 days per year. On top of this, over 25% of people reported being contacted by a boss or co-worker during vacation and over 50% checked their work email every day while out of the office. Our firm works with clients all over the world and I can confirm that when our European clients go on vacation they are not available and it’s usually for two weeks at a time.
Achieving a healthy work/life balance is a critical component to staying happy and focused at work. Outside of reducing stress and recharging mentally, vacations offer something even more important, perspective. Traveling and getting out of your usual surroundings opens you up to new ideas and ways of doing things. This can be as simple as trying new foods, having time to read a book or listen to new music. Travel also offers a window into new cultures, art, architecture and lifestyle. These experiences fuel creative thought and channel new ideas. In addition, traveling often gives a fresh appreciation for what you have. Or conversely, it can be a catalyst to change something in your life that hasn’t been working. This doesn’t have to be a profound change but can simply be a new way of doing or thinking about something. It ultimately helps us keep growing and learning while being more accepting and open to differences.
The positive side effects of taking a vacation have been studied extensively and the benefits to your health and mental well-being are concrete. Here are what some of the health experts are saying. The Journal of the American Medical Association has done research on the positive impact a vacation has on your health. The results conclude that vacation reduces stress and helps keep your heart healthy; it actually can lower your chance of heart disease! The University Of Pittsburgh, Mind-Body Center found that vacation improves your mental health. This means you gain more positive emotions and fewer negative feelings that can lead to depression. In addition, there have been many studies that found your relationships with loved ones improve and your outlook on life becomes more positive.
Then why aren’t Americans taking their vacations? When surveyed participants shared the following reasons; didn’t have the money, didn’t want to return to more work and worried their boss would frown upon time away from the office. We still seem to have a corporate culture that applauds the last one in the office. Employees should be measured by their results and ability to manage their time effectively not the number of hours they work. Taking vacations should be encouraged because when you take that break and recharge, your motivation and excitement at work returns and you ultimately improve your productivity.
So pick some dates that you can step away from the office and explore. You can keep it simple and cost effective by staying in town and playing tourist or hop in the car and take a road trip. If possible, go somewhere brand new and push yourself out of the comfort zone.
We hope to see a few “out of office” replies soon!