Americans may have a reputation for being a nation of workaholics but they’re not alone. Last year, Canadians left an average of three unused vacation days on the table, according to Expedia. That represents nearly 31 million unused vacation days in 2016 alone.
Donna Castellano, a Winnipeg-based senior project manager, isn’t surprised by the findings – she often leaves vacation days on the table. “I’m fortunate to get a fair amount of holidays and it can be challenging for me to take them all,” she says, adding that she leaves about five vacation days unused every year.
“It’s primarily due to juggling different projects and priorities as well as working around the go-live dates of each project,” she says. “I know it’s self-inflicted, but it can be hard to find a time to get away.”
While leaving a few left over vacation days may not seem like a big deal, research shows that not taking holidays can be bad for your health.
While leaving a few left over vacation days may not seem like a big deal, research shows that not taking holidays can be bad for your health. One study, by the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that men who take frequent annual vacations were 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease as people who didn’t take any vacation.
In another study, it was discovered that women who took vacation once every six years or less were about eight times more likely to get coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations a year. A lack of vacations can also increase stress, depression and anxiety, too.
“There’s an increase in health and well-being no matter how long or what type of vacation you have,” relayed Jessica de Bloom, a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Research in Finland, to CBC’s The Current. “There’s also research that shows people who don’t go on holidays have a decrease in well-being and a higher risk of heart attack.”
Unfortunately, many people would rather stay at work, in part because they’re too busy to leave or they think that taking time off could hurt their jobs, though there’s little proof that vacations kill careers.
So what can you do to ensure you get away?
Schedule your holidays for the coming six to 12 months and immediately block those days in your calendar – then stick to it. Don’t expect to ever find the perfect time to get away, just plan your days well in advance so that you have enough time to prepare for your time out of office.
Don’t be afraid to delegate
Many people don’t want to burden their colleagues with extra work while they’re away. They may even fear losing out on a raise or a promotion if they let someone else do their job. However, a research study by the U.S. Travel Association showed that people who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time. Comparatively, people who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus.
Pay yourself first
If you’re self-employed or receive holiday pay on every cheque instead of paid days off, it can be difficult to put that money aside to fund your time off. Consider setting up an automatic transfer from your chequing to your savings account so that when holiday time comes, you don’t take a financial hit.
In the end, the key is to make your vacation time a priority. It will pay off when you return to work refreshed and refocused.