Change the Trend: Use Your Vacation Days

Not everyone is as brazen as Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter. While his publication was in the middle of cutting 5 percent of its staff, he made himself scarce. But, you can do that when you’re the top dog. Most people don’t take vacations when the Grim Reaper is mingling among the cubicles. They’d rather be at their desks, they convince themselves, generating value for shareholders and demonstrating the return their employers get on their salaries. So, instead of going on vacation last year, many doubled down on the business of staying employed, always a priority when the unemployment rate hits double digits.

But, this can wear you down. Consider the factors converging on you: anxiety over your job, a shitty market for getting a new one, having to “do more with less,” survivor’s guilt, longer hours, smaller (or no) raises and bonuses and less appreciation. Now, take away the few days or weeks you take every year to recharge. What do you have left?

It’s a dismal situation, and it would be smart to commit to a vacation this year, especially if you didn’t take one at all in 2009.According to a new study by Right Management, the human resources consulting unit in Manpower, 66 percent of American employees didn’t use all their vacation days last year. Douglas Matthews, president and COO of Right Management was surprised: “We thought it would be about 50 percent.”

Doubtless, this was shaped by more than attempting to appear deeply committed to the job. Consumer spending spent most of 2009 in rough shape, as credit tightened and people repaid debt and held onto their cash in case they fell victim to the layoff trend. Dropping hefty amounts of dough on a trip entailed a financial risk that fewer people were willing to accept last year. Said Matthews, “The cost of taking a vacation is pretty high. He continued, Tons of people feel they don’t have the discretionary spending to take vacation, so they just stay at work.”

Simply staying at home while taking vacation time apparently wasn’t an attractive option. This feeds the other aspect of the dynamic. The notion that not going on vacation shows people how valuable you are was prevalent. Whether it’s a game of toughness among peers or jockeying for favor with the boss, there is a population that thinks it needs to make profound sacrifices to demonstrate its value.

Connie Thanasoulis, career services expert at, doesn’t see it this way. “It’s silly to think that giving up vacation is going to make your colleagues think how important you are,” she tells Forbes. “Take your vacation and let them miss you.”

Joan Kane, a Manhattan psychologist, is on board with this thinking, calling vacations “underrated.” She says, “People think they’re fluff. I believe they’re crucial.” In addition to keeping you on an even keel, vacations help you feel like you control your time. Even if this is only a brief sensation, it’s one you should allow your self to feel every now and then.

Kane notes, “On vacation you have no boss to satisfy … “You’re not under constant surveillance.

[Photo via MigrantBlogger]