Why Are You Not Taking Vacation?


A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in. ~ Robert Orben

By the time you are reading this, my husband and I will have returned from a weeklong vacation in San Francisco, California. I love taking vacations. There is nothing like decompressing and relaxing from the busy and often unpredictable world of federal budget process. I earn annual leave (vacation time) and have no problems using it.

However, I cannot say the same for my coworkers. At least half, if not more, do not take vacations, and this is not restricted to federal employees. Studies show that annual vacations cut the risk of heart attacks in men by 30% and by 50% in women. Yet, only 14% of Americans take more than one week of vacation at a time.

Some of my coworkers lose their annual leave every single year, but again, this is not limited to federal employees. 40% of Americans leave vacation time on the table. The U.S. Travel Association says that American workers leave more and more paid time off unused each year. They forfeit their earned benefits, and “plain and simply,” are working for free.

Perhaps some of us just love our jobs that much? Think again. Nearly 3/4 of workers say they are stressed at work, and 1 in 4 reports either being “very” or “extremely” stressed.

So what is really going on here? Americans reported that they could not take their vacation time because 40% feared returning to a ton of work and 35% believed no one else could do their work. Another study found that approximately 20% of workers expressed concern that they would be seen as replaceable if they took a vacation.

According to one university psychology professor, fear is prevalent to employees not taking their vacations. They are afraid that if they are not present, then, something bad, i.e. a pile of work or out of a job, will happen.

I must say that in almost three decades of federal employment, I have not seen or heard of a federal employee being terminated for taking scheduled vacations. The key is making it work for you and those around you, so here are some tips:

Plan ahead. Check your vacation dates against a master calendar and finish as many tasks as possible in advance. Then, send out an email reminding everyone that you are leaving.

Show and tell. When you return to work, talk about your vacation and share the benefits of being off with your coworkers.

Support your coworkers in taking their vacation. Approximately, 43% of supervisors/managers and 37% of coworkers do not encourage one another to take vacations.

I believe as federal employees we should not be “all work and no play.”  We do ourselves, our families, our friends, and our coworkers (ever sat next to a stressed out coworker?) a disservice by not being at our best at all times.  Take time for you and all those around you.

Cynthia V White is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Rachel Niebeling

This is a great post Cynthia! Vacation is absolutely critical to being able to do your job to the best of your ability. I know from personal experience that feeling comfortable to take a full week helps me feel much more relaxed and happy to come back to work.