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The Daily

Should You Stay or Should You Go: the Career Calculations Behind Taking a Vacation

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jun 16, 2015
RelaxOn the one hand, the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, and while you're miles away from the ocean you none the less hear it calling your name. On the other, the deadline is Friday, the sales figures are flagging, and your boss, from about ten feet away, is also calling your name. Maybe it's time for a vacation, but then again, maybe not. 

People in the United States take less time off than those in other developed countries such as France or Sweden, which could partially be explained by the fact that it's also the only such nation to not have guaranteed paid vacation laws, according to a recent Vox article. While, on average, workers get 14 days off, they tend to use only 10 of them, if they use them at all: while 80 percent of people took an annual week long vacation in 1977, today only 56 percent do. Further, even when they do take time off, 61 percent say they do at least some work on vacation. Perhaps this is for good reason: an article in the Wall Street Journal says that studies have shown that 13 percent of managers are less likely to promote employees who use all their vacation time, and on average earn 2.8 percent more. Taking a vacation can, thus, dramatically harm future career success. 

Perhaps employers who feel this way, however, are not aware of research that shows allowing, or even requiring, workers to take time off can have benefits: time off has been shown to boost productivity for the company, and improve career outcomes for individual workers. Directly contradicting the previously mentioned study, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review pointed to research that showed people who had unused time off were 6.5 percent less likely to be promoted than those who didn't. Other studies have found that those who take time off tend to do slightly better on their performance reviews as well. 

So maybe don't feel so bad about taking some time off, and don't worry as much about what doing so says to your manager. Just be prepared to hit the ground running when you come back.