We have a vacation problem here in the U.S. Not with the concept, of course—no one will argue against a few extended breaks from the daily grind—but moreso with actually taking those breaks. The U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off recently found that Americans left 662 million vacation days on the table in 2016. The average worker took 16.8 days of PTO last year, which is a long way off from the 20.3-day long-term average from 1976 to 2000.
It’s easy to understand why so many of us let our PTO go to waste. According to the report, 43 percent of workers surveyed were afraid of returning to a “mountain of work” after coming back from vacation, and 34 percent felt their coworkers couldn’t adequately cover for them in their absence.
Employees were concerned about their job security, too, with 26 percent reporting that they felt taking time off would make them seem less dedicated at work. More than a fifth of respondents also said they were hesitant of leaving the office because it could cost them a raise or promotion.
But the stats don’t back them up. Living in the office has no positive effect on advancing your career—in fact, it may damage it. Self-proclaimed work martyrs were less likely to report getting a promotion within the last year and receiving a raise or bonus in the last three years than people who didn’t subscribe to the work martyr myth, per the study.
Workaholics do have one dubious leg up on their more lax colleagues, however: They’re more likely to experience more stress both at work and at home, according to the report. So at least they have that going for them.
Simply put, employees who take advantage of all their vacation days perform better than those who watch their hard-earned days go unused. (That’s not to mention the $66.4 billion in benefits forfeiters lost last year.)
So don’t be a hero—take your time off. And if you’re worried about mounting vacation costs, as 32 percent of workers in the survey were, may we suggest these 10 Best Places to Travel on a Budget?