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Use Your Vacation!

I’ll be honest, today’s post is half rant, half advice.  Still I believe it contains an important message so bear with me.  Today we’re talking about the importance of taking your vacation at work.

I Receive a Decent Amount of Vacation

My employer has a fairly liberal vacation policy, its one of the better perks they offer.   How good?  Well I started at 3 weeks of vacation not including holidays.  New hires these days start with 4 weeks.  Vacation increases with years of service, maxing out somewhere around 6 weeks a year.  Mind you as noted this is exclusive of 9 holidays a year.    Now before you all start asking me where I work and come join me note I do not get sick days so this is it.  

Limited Roll Over Capability

I also am allowed to roll over vacation to the next year in limited quantities.  After those quantities are exceeded however, the individual is out of luck.  They essentially stop earning vacation.  So there is obviously a real incentive to take your vacation before reaching the limit rather than lose it.  Note my employer neither encourages or discourages people from taking their vacation.

All My Coworkers are Losing Vacation Time

And yet not a day goes by I do not have a conversation with someone who is losing vacation time because they have not taken enough.  It seems to cover all age groups as well.  The new hires that get 4 weeks a year are just as likely to be losing vacations as the grizzly veteran with 6.  So what gives?

Not Just My Coworkers Are Skipping Vacation

For this post I did a little digging which brought me to a survey by  They found the average worker takes about half of their vacation each year.   Even those who do take vacation seem to be working on them.  The same survey found that 66% report working while they are on vacation.  So what gives?

Even Those With Non At Risk Jobs are Skipping Vacation

I seriously doubt this is mostly because people fear they will lose their jobs.  On the whole there are more jobs available then workers.  Hitting closer to home I see just as many lifers at my company skipping vacation as newbies.  Given my company hasn’t done layoffs in decades I seriously doubt these folks are sweating they might be laid off if they take a week they are entitled. 

Skipping Vacation Won’t Help You Stand Out

Early in my career I didn’t take significant amount of vacation.  I thought it would make me stand out in the organization as a go getter.  The thing is it has had no impact on my trajectory.  In fact the stress may have even hurt my career by lowering my productivity.

  Since that time I have increased my vacation time to take my full allotment each year.  I roll 2 weeks each year which I have left over from ten years ago when I did not take the time.  My career trajectory has climbed faster while taking more vacation then before.    In other words, not taking vacation does not make you stand out in your career.  Certainly not when 50 percent of your peers are doing the same thing.  

Even Those Not Climbing the Ladder Skip Vacation

Either way I doubt either of these apply to the majority of people.  After all I even see individuals with no desire to advance beyond their current role in essentially lifer positions acting similarly.

Reasons Employees Skip Vacations

No, if I do some soul searching, look at some other worker surveys, and talk to my coworkers the general reasons for not taking full vacation seem to mostly relate to the following:

  • First, some have intense loyalty to their company and fear they are the only ones that can do their role.    I guess they believe if they go on vacation the company will fail without them.
  • Second, they fear falling behind.  In todays fast pace business world few businesses have true backups for their employees.  So if you take off the work is still there growing for you to do when you get back.  
  • Finally some have loyalty to their coworkers, and fear they will let others down.

To these fears I say hogwash. 

Addressing FEAR

Let’s first address the lack of keeping the company running. On Thursday as I walked my way out the door for a week and a half vacation someone said to me “how will we survive the week you are gone”.  You know what, they survived before I joined the company and they will survive after.  If the company can’t survive without your presence for 5 days your manager has done a poor job of planning as the first thing a manager should do is always have contingency plans incase you walk out the door to another employer.  Besides, your company is not going to be loyal to you if layoffs need to come around, so why should you kill yourself all the time.  (See below for how you are killing yourself if you don’t take vacations.)

Skipping Vacation Raises the Bar on Your Expected Work

Addressing falling behind let me level with you as a former manager.   As a manager I assigned work to my employees based on what I expected they would complete.  How did I determine what they would complete given each person works to a different level?  Based on their prior quarter output.  So you know what?  As long as you take regular vacations your workload will likely be structured by any good boss to account for your vacation.  If you never take vacations, you will likely be loaded up and the change in your vacation habits is what will cause you problems.  The key is to be consistent about taking your vacation!

Feeling Bad About Impact to Your Coworkers is Legit, but Short Sighted

Finally there are your coworkers.  Honestly this is the hardest reason for me to shrug off.  I hear you, I hate for my coworkers to have to pickup my slack.  But…  I only hate it because other people in my organization do not take vacation.  If they took their vacation as well I would feel more like it was reciprocation.  So the key is to start a trend where your whole organization takes vacation.  That train has to start with someone, why not you?  Otherwise you are just perpetuating everyone’s downfall by maintaining the status quo.

So why should you take your vacation?  

  • Your management and HR believe it will lead to increased productivity.    Numerous surveys interviewing managers and HR show they believe workers returning from vacation are more productive.  Furthermore studies do show evidence of real improvements in productivity for those who take vacations

So let’s see.  Vacations keep you alive, make you happier, improve your relationships, and increase your energy.  They have little to no true cost except what is in your head.  Readers, I want to hear from you if you are not taking your full vacation allotment each year.  Do you have a reason I missed?  Does any of the data on this page potentially change your decisions?


  1. Vacationer
    Vacationer June 13, 2018

    I’ve seen the same phenomenon at my work, where vacation is all use it or lose it, and we don’t even have the sick days excuse as theses aren’t counted. I’ve heard the same excuses you list. I always take my time off as I find it critical to have downtime, and also it’s part of my compensation package. When you don’t take your time off you are just lowering your pay per hour rate.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance June 14, 2018

      Very true. You are only short changing your compensation.

  2. Jim @ Route To Retire
    Jim @ Route To Retire June 13, 2018

    I never even leave a minute of vacation unused. That’s an employee benefit you’ve been given by your employer, so there’s never any feeling bad about using it coming from me. It boggles my mind that there are people who just let time go to waste… let it go and take a break. If a company collapses because you aren’t working every day of your life, there are much bigger problems there that need to be fixed.

    — JIm

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance June 14, 2018

      So true. No one in a company should be irreplaceable.

  3. Dan
    Dan June 13, 2018

    Doesn’t US labor laws require “use or lose” vacation to be paid out in cash? That is my company’s policy. As a result, the company would much rather the employees take their vacation as cashing them out is a hard cost & involves cash flow. In fact, I would say the opposite is true. If you are stubborn and insist on being cashed out on vacation, you are likely to be subtly retaliated against by management.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance June 14, 2018

      Not at the Fed level but for some states there are. My state is not one.

  4. coco
    coco June 13, 2018

    reading and nodding from my home on my vacation week.

  5. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth June 13, 2018

    Great article. Interesting topic. I have a few things to add:

    Under “Reasons Employees Skip Vacations” you need to include in ‘Your employer won’t let you take it’. My work has been short staffed for more than 6 months, and they often deny employee requests to take PTO for even a day or two at a time.

    I just finished my first week-long vacation after having started my high-stress job 1 year ago. On the last day of vacation I was talking to my husband about heart rates, and I realized I have a year of daily heart rates logged b/c of my Fitbit. I went back and looked and the results were surprising. Immediately before I started my new job my resting heart rate was 69 beats per minute. As the months have gone by, my resting heart rate has increased one beat per minute about every one to two months (I attribute this to work stress, now working 60 hours a week and being unable to exercise as much as I had been, and eating badly due to stress). The week before my vacation (almost one year into my new employment) my resting heart rate was 76 bpm. The entire week of my vacation my resting heart rate was 71-72 – numbers I haven’t seen in months. I say all this to say – take the vacation if they let you!

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance June 14, 2018

      I’m sorry to hear that. Not letting you take it is an issue at some companies of course. That being said based on the stats it’s more likely most do this to themselves. Still for those stuck with such companies perhaps it’s time for greener pastures? Thanks for commenting.

  6. Caroline
    Caroline June 14, 2018

    I have been guilty of not using all my vacation before for many reasons! One of them being “internal competition”:( Or should I say lack of confidence .
    I am over it now but it took a long time.
    Thanks for the post and the reminder

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance June 16, 2018

      Glad to hear. Any plans for the summer?

  7. Doc G
    Doc G June 14, 2018

    I work for myself. I can take vacation whenever I want. One thing that stops me…coming back is so painful you end up wishing you never left. Sometimes.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance June 16, 2018

      Self employment presents its own sorts of problems. Thankfully our business is currently scaled to only about ten hours a week.

      I hear you on the mountain of work when you return. But that still shouldn’t stop you from taking a break.

  8. Cubert
    Cubert June 15, 2018

    My friend, I couldn’t agree with you MORE! As a long-standing career jockey with a team of professionals reporting to me, I reinforce over and over to use all vacay time.

    Turns out, my highest performers are the ones who use it all up. Go figure. They also tend to be the ones best prepared before they go on vacation, getting coverage plans in place, etc. So I never have to freak out about them being gone.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance June 16, 2018

      A good employee makes sure he’s covered while out for sure. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

  9. Dividend Diplomats
    Dividend Diplomats June 16, 2018

    This is something I’ve grown to appreciate more and more over the years. You owe it to yourself to earn and take every minute. You owe it to yourself to take a mental break, relax, recharge, and recover. Work can be a grind and if you can’t carry it over, you might as well use it. Also, my company recently changed their policy about paying out PTO when you quit. In the past, they would pay you out for unused PTO. But now, that has changed and they are no longer doing it. So there is ZERO incentive for holding on to your PTO and not using it.

    Thanks for the read!


    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance June 16, 2018

      Ouch. In that case skipping your vacation gets expensive quick. I can roll about there weeks a year currently and earn about four weeks. I do get paid out if I quit. I’m currently rolling about two from earlier in my career. I take every one of the four weeks.

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