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Why You Should Take A Vacation — Now

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It’s warm and bright outside (finally!) and you’ve probably caught yourself gazing out the window at your office, wishing you were sipping a Pina Colada out of a coconut on a white sand beach. The creative juices dried up a long time ago, and you’re in desperate need of a time out. So when are you booking that trip?

Sadly, you probably aren’t.

According to the travel website Skift, nearly 42 percent of Americans forwent vacation in 2014. On average, U.S. employees receive 10 vacation days (not including holidays) and work 1,836 hours a year. If you think that sounds generous, you’ll soon be singing a different tune.

Austria, for example, tops all European nations with 25 vacation days and 13 holidays.In 2013, U.S. workers let 160 million days slip through their fingers, equalling $52.4 billion in time-off. When you put it that way, it’s a bit more jarring.This may not come as a surprise, but Europeans take twice as much paid vacation as Americans. They are also required, by law, to take a minimum number of vacation days.

The U.S.? Not so much.

What’s That You Say About The American Dream?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide paid time off work. This includes holidays. While most companies do offer this benefit to remain competitive and to reward employees, they are not legally obligated to. One in four do not receive paid vacation or holidays.Even India, Thailand, the Philippines and China get more paid vacation and holidays than Americans.

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So why aren’t you taking that vacation? Is it because you feel guilty? Or will your employer punish you for taking time off work?

If that’s the case, don’t be ashamed. I can attest to both.I remember taking a long weekend to spend time with my family and returning to discover I’d been scheduled to work for 17 days straight. That’s almost three weeks without a day off! I feel as if that should be illegal. It certainly felt like it. But working that many consecutive days shouldn’t matter because "I just went to the beach." In mere seconds, my boss  wrested every ounce of happiness I had soaked up in Orange Beach, Ala.

When I took my next job, I made sure to use every single second of vacation I had before I lost it at the beginning of the following year. I know plenty of people who complain about not being able to take vacation because “I just don’t have the time” or “Something will go wrong if I’m not there.”

For Americans, fear of taking time off permeates the workplace. Waiving PTO made sense during the “layoff era” when everyone was fighting for their jobs, but the economy has been on the upturn. If you haven't taken time off since the Great Recession, you're long overdue. It's called Paid Time Off for a reason. Let’s rephrase that: You are essentially working for free if you forfeit your PTO. 

What Would You Do With Unlimited Vacation?

ROI Online, along with the likes of HubSpot, Netflix, The Virgin Group and Groupon, make up a handful of U.S. employers (1 percent to be exact) that offer unlimited vacation policies. What does that mean? In our bossman’s words, “You can take as much time off as you want, as long as you get your sh*# done and set everyone else up for success.”ROI implemented this policy to reward its employees, imbue hard work and confidence, and boost morale. Studies show when employees take time off to refresh and reboot, performance and productivity levels increase.

Does An Unlimited Vacation Policy Make Sense For Your Company?

In spite of the ostensible benefits, this is not to say an open PTO policy is right for every business. The stars must align: You need the right people, the right culture and the right business.

So before you start doling out unlimited vacation like Las Vegas street cards, evaluate your company’s culture and its employees. Ask yourself if you trust your employees not to abuse the policy or if your business can actually accommodate such freedom.

You should seek the opinion of your employees because they may prefer another option, such as being paid back for unused vacation days. You should also consult an experienced employment law attorney to guarantee the policy complies with the FMLA, ADA and other workers’ compensation laws.

Hopefully by now you’ve stopped reading this blog and started researching vacation destinations. If not, then what are you waiting for? Remember, you earned it.

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