Don't feel bad for taking a vacation. Truth is, it's good for you and your career to use up every single one of those vacation days. However, you'd be surprised how many Americans aren't taking advantage of this opportunity, but when you're finished reading this, Bermuda may be calling your name.

The Stats

Project: Time Off's State of American Vacation 2018 report found that 52% of American workers have unused vacation days. This leads to a total of 705 million unspent vacation days, 212 million of which cannot be reimbursed. Thus, the result was American employees leaving $62 billion - or $561 per person - on the table, so to speak. 

The average American takes only 17.2 vacation days each year, though most will only spend 8 of those days traveling. Think about that for a second. In an entire year, most Americans will spend a little over a week using their vacation days as intended. 

Using those extra 9.2 days makes a significant difference. How much so? Those who use all or most of their days off are: 

  • 56% happier with their health 
  • 20% happier with their relationships 
  • 28% happier with their companies (hello employee longevity)
  • 24% happier with their careers
  • 18% more likely to have gotten a promotion within the last two years (when compared to infrequent travelers)

The takeaway: if you use your vacation, you'll be promoted. Just kidding, but the statistics are legitimately both compelling & startling. 

Happy = Productive

As we all know, happy employees are the most productive. They're also even more creative, efficient, loyal, and can help significantly improve the company's bottom line. Employees that are happy with their company will surely feel obligated to give each day their best effort.

Treat your employees well and your company will blossom in return. And keep in mind, taking breaks has many benefits too. It helps workers remain productive, retain information, and avoid burnout.  

But won't taking all my vacation make me look bad?

Well, Tom, I'm glad you asked that thought-provoking question to yourself. Sure, many workers fear taking advantage of all their vacation time can make them appear disinterested and replaceable. Au Contraire -- let's myth-bust this real quick with the managerial take on it: 

  • 90% of managers think that workers who plan their vacations ahead of time are responsible. 
  • 85% of say that planning ahead makes it easier to schedule work around an employee's absence. 
  • 43% of managers say that they often can't approve vacations since the worker didn't give enough notice time.  

It's a win/win, people. 

Treat Yourself

It's time to start treating yourself to the vacations you deserve. America is the only developed country where employers aren't obligated to provide workers with paid vacation days or holidays (and on that note, American employees aren't entitled to sick days or maternity leave either). In fact, a quarter of Americans don't get a single paid day off all year. Meanwhile, New Zealand, Italy, Austria, Belgium, France, and several other countries all give workers at least a month off every year.

So be thankful, take advantage of what you have, and go somewhere nice. The dividends will pay off...literally. 

Yes, I accept postcards. 

Published on: May 12, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.