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Time to Really ‘Check Out!’

VacationNow that we are well into summer, many of us are lounging at the swimming pool, barbecuing, golfing, enjoying activities at the lake, attending garage sales, and numerous other outdoor activities.

But have you thought about really taking a vacation?

I know this question may sound a bit unusual, especially at the height of summertime. But below the surface, this question might have some validity. EVERYBODY takes a vacation from work, right? Well, apparently not.

According to a recent study by Accountemps, a staffing firm, who surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. workers, about one-third of surveyed professionals report they don’t have enough vacation time. Another 41 percent say they are not taking advantage of the paid time off that they have available at work – partly due to fear of the workload they will have when returning from vacation. Finally, 35 percent said they took fewer or no days off because others would need to handle their workload – maybe due to peer pressure or guilt.

For those who did get away on vacation, 41 percent admitted they checked in with the office at least once a week. Smartphones and other convenient electronic devices are wonderful tools to have, but they also serve as a reminder to access work emails and documents while on vacation. The Eagles rock band put it quite succinctly in their 1976 hit ‘Hotel California’: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!” Forty years later, we seem to be caught in the same quandary when we try to ‘check out’ and really ‘leave’ (relax).

Another report indicates that Americans forfeit over $61 billion annually to unused vacation time. In 2015 alone, 55 percent of Americans did not use their vacation allowance, which is the first time the majority of workers ignored time away from work. Americans left 658 million vacation days on the table, with about a third of this number (222 million days) not allowed to be rolled into the following year, or paid out or banked. This inactivity adversely affects the economy due to the ripple-effect of people not traveling, etc.

In our 2014 Iowa Employer Benefits Study©, 80 percent of Iowa employers with traditional leave programs offer paid vacation, while 88 percent of employers who offer Paid Time Off (PTO) programs include vacation as a paid benefit. Clearly, a vast majority of Iowa employers believe that vacation is important for employees to relax and return to work with renewed energy. Iowa employees we surveyed in 2007 reported that vacation is the second most important benefit to have at the workplace (only after Retirement).

To help avoid employee burnout, managers can demonstrate to others by actually taking vacations and checking in with the office less frequently. This can serve as a model to other employees, managers and colleagues to do the same and not feel guilty when taking time away from work. When doing this, employees will know that they can truly ‘check out’ from their professional responsibilities and temporarily ‘leave’ that work behind them.

Vacation is all about giving employees that “Peaceful Easy Feeling!”

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