Taking Your Vacation Creates Jobs

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Time for a vacation!

We’ve all heard the arguments for taking our full allocation of paid vacation. The mental and physical break from work reduces stress, recharges our batteries and improves our frame of mind. From an employer’s perspective as well, it makes sense to ensure employees take an annual vacation. When employees return after a break, they are more productive, less stressed and less inclined to suffer heart attacks and other stress related ailments.

Clearly vacations are a win/win proposition for employers and employees. But none of the rhetoric about the benefits of taking vacation seems to prevent the American worker from pushing through. Over 40% of employees entitled to paid time off in the U.S do not use all of it. In fact, a staggering 429 million days of PTO were left on the table in 2013. [1]

Vacations and the Economy

Although we’re seeing economic growth in North America and the job market is better than it has been in a number of years, the growth is slow and inconsistent. Economists say we’ve recovered from the global recession that began late in 2007 and then exploded with the financial crisis of 2008. And yet, things are far from booming. But what do a sluggish recovery and unused vacation time have in common? More than you might think.

According to Oxford Economics, If 429 million days of unused paid time off were taken and employees chose to travel when taking those vacation days, it would generate approximately 580 million more travel days and $67 billion in additional travel spending. They go on to say the total economic impact of this spending, including indirect effects, would be 1.2 million U.S. jobs and $52 billion in additional income earned.

All that economic benefit just because employees use all their vacation time!

Create Vacation Expectation

One of the more interesting elements of Oxford Economics’ research is the reason why most people are leaving some of their paid time off unused. Although both employers and employees recognize the benefits of taking vacation, heavy workload along with management and peer pressure apparently prevent many workers from taking their full allocation of paid time off.

As employers, it’s important to create a cultural norm that supports all employees using their vacation allocations. Management and peers need to embrace a vacation expectation so that no one feels pressured into passing up a much needed break. Strive to structure workloads and teams so that no single employee is so critical to the organization’s function that s/he “can’t be spared.” This will also protect the organization from unexpected absences due to illness or injury (or when someone takes a job with a more vacation-friendly employer!)

Your Last (Vacation) Resort

A friend of mine used to increase his spending when the economy suffered, saying it was his job to “help support struggling businesses and save jobs.” It always seemed like an excuse for conspicuous consumption to me. In retrospect, I may have judged him too harshly. If Oxford Economics’ findings and calculations are correct, we now have one more line of reasoning to draw on when urging employees to take their vacation. If all else fails and they insist on staying chained to their desks, we can now appeal to their sense of nationalism—tell them they have the power to create jobs and grow the economy just by taking a well-earned break!


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[1] Oxford Economics (2014). An Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S. http://traveleffect.com/sites/traveleffect.com/files/Oxford_UnusedTimeOff_FullReport.pdf

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