Don’t let vacation time go unused

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Put your trips on the calendar now to get the time off you need to relax and restore

Summertime is prime vacation time. Do you have your trips planned?

Americans are notoriously lax about taking all the vacation time owed to them by their employers. In 2016, workers took an average of 16.8 vacation days—up slightly from 16.2 days in 2015, but still below a long-term average of 20.3 days that held until a decline began around 2000, according to “The State of American Vacation 2017,” a report from Project: Time Off, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition that promotes the health and wellness benefits of taking adequate vacation time. And more than half (54%) of employees left vacation time unused in 2016. “These days add up to $66.4 billion in forfeited benefits across the workforce, or $604 per worker,” the report says.

Family in car on vacation tripBut people who schedule their vacations well in advance are less likely to lose days owed to them, plus they’re able to take longer breaks and can strategically bank time off for special trips in the future, according to Project: Time Off.

There are other benefits to properly scheduling vacations: You suffer less burnout, are less likely to have to take work with you on your trip, put less burden on your co-workers and won’t miss important family events.

In general, managers (91%) want to OK vacation time, but 43% say they sometimes can’t because employees don’t give them enough notice, according to Project: Time Off. Employees sometimes worry they’ll seem uncommitted to work if they schedule all their vacation for the year at once, so, for their part, managers can actively encourage employees to schedule as much time as they can in as far in advance as possible. (In fact, nearly eight in 10 managers say it’s helpful to know team members’ vacation plans at the start of the year.)

Project: Time Off recommends having a staff or team meeting once or twice a year so that everyone can coordinate vacation schedules. The organization also encourages managers to remind staff regularly how much vacation time they still have available.

Here are a few other vacation planning tips:

  • Commit to disconnecting. It’s not a restorative, relaxing vacation if you spend hours a day answering work calls and responding to emails. As a store owner or manager, empower someone else to handle emergencies and problems in your absence—and trust them to do so. Then use out-of-office messages to direct people to that person should an issue arise. If you absolutely must check messages, limit yourself to 15 minutes each day, but a better practice is to clear your mind of work worries and wait to catch up until you’re back home.
  • Give yourself a buffer. Schedule your return so you have at least one full day at home before returning to work. It gives you time to unpack, do laundry, go to the grocery store, catch up on emails and phone calls, and mentally prepare yourself for the switch from vacation to work.
  • Plan far, far ahead. Here’s a date to put on the calendar for next year: Jan. 29, 2019. That’s Plan for Vacation Day—a perfect time to get your vacations scheduled for the year.

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