by Melany Hallam
July 2015 Water Cooler Survey Question (take the poll here)
Why don’t you take all of your vacation days each year?
- I don’t want to fall behind in my work
- I’m saving my vacation time to use later
- I can’t afford a vacation
- I’m not eligible for vacation time
- I DO take all of my vacation time each year
It’s summer – annual vacation time for many of us. The answer to our July survey question may seem obvious to you (a big “I DO”!), but we’re quite serious in asking whether or not you take all of your vacation days. I was surprised to read recently of a 2014 TD Bank survey which found that 93 per cent of Canadians agree vacation time is important to their wellbeing, but only 43 per cent take all of their vacation time.
Why aren’t Canadians taking the vacation days they’re entitled to?
According to the survey, 29 per cent of respondents were too busy at work or were facing unexpected last minute problems and challenges at work (25 per cent). Add to that the 21 per cent who felt that there is too much that has to be done before and after a trip to make it worthwhile, and this paints a pretty distressing picture of workers today.
Besides the fact that not taking your vacation days may mean losing that time and income forever, it can also lead to burnout. Burnout is something that sneaks up on you. It can have many causes in addition to not having enough down time, including working at a job that you don’t like or working with difficult people. Whatever the cause, some of the signs include chronic fatigue; difficulty sleeping; forgetfulness and inability to concentrate; physical symptoms such as headaches, heart palpitations and stomach pain; increased illness (colds, infections); loss of appetite; anxiety; depression; anger and signs of cynicism or detachment. The list goes on. Here’s a handy self-test if you want to see where you stand.
If you reach a point where you’re experiencing these symptoms, dealing with them can be a long and difficult process. You may need to quit your job completely, losing your income for the long-term if you’re left unable to work at all. No one wants that!
But vacation days can help – at least temporarily. They can give you breathing space to rediscover the important things and people in your life.
Here’s an idea. If planning a two-week vacation stresses you out, take your vacation time in shorter chunks. Go away for a long weekend or stay home and turn off your phone, visit friends or spend time with family. Try this a time or two and see how it goes. You may find that those work problems that seemed insurmountable suddenly become manageable with a little perspective.
And if you really love your job, vacation days can help you, too. Studies have shown that people come up with more creative ideas when they’re on holiday rather than at work.
In BC, employers are required to give you a minimum of 10 vacation days after being employed for 12 months. If you value your relationships and your sanity make sure you take them all!For more info check out these links:
- Burnout self-test
- Signs of burnout
- Worried that things will fall apart at work if you take time off? Here’s one of many articles aimed at employers about the benefits of having well-rested employees
- An extensive list of steps you can take to reduce stress and avoid burnout
- See where Canada is on the list of minimum paid vacation days compared to other countries (here’s a hint: we’re not very high on the list)