Are the People Who Take Vacations the Ones Who Get Promoted?
Harvard Business Review, Shawn Achor
Too many people limit their happiness and success by assuming that taking time off from work will send a negative message to their manager and slow their career advancement. But new research, says that the exact opposite is true. Taking a vacation can actually increase the likelihood of getting a raise or a promotion.
For the past two years, I’ve been partnering with the U.S. Travel Association to promote the business case for taking time off from work. Their new initiative, Project: Time Off, is one of the most robust examinations of how vacations affect companies and employees alike. Their analysis has found that Americans are taking less vacation time than at any point in the last four decades. Why? According to Gary Oster, Managing Director of Project: Time Off, “Many people don’t take time off because they think that it will negatively impact their manager’s perception of them. But, that isn’t the case at all.”
If you or someone you know needs to be convinced to use your vacation time, here’s a list of reasons why it just makes good business sense:
1. Taking a vacation increases your chances of getting a raise or promotion.
According to Project: Time Off, people who take all of their vacation time have a 6.5% higher chance of getting a promotion or a raise than people who leave 11 or more days of paid time off on the table. That percentage may sound small (and it is a correlation versus a causation), but it is the polar opposite of the idea that staying at work might mean getting ahead. It simply doesn’t.
2. A positive, engaged brain improves important business metrics.
In The Happiness Advantage, I describe research that shows that when the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31%, sales increase by 37%, and creativity and revenues can triple. In fact, the conclusion of my HBR magazine article, “Positive Intelligence,” which was based on a decade of research, was that “the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” To be truly engaged at work, your brain needs periodic breaks to gain fresh perspective and energy.
But not all vacations are created equally. Consider research that shows that the average vacation yields no improvement in people’s levels of energy or happiness upon returning to work. In these cases, it wasn’t the time away that caused the negative or neutral impact, it was the travel stress. In a study of over 400 travelers from around the world, Michelle Gielan from the Institute for Applied Positive Research and I found a strong negative correlation between travel stress and happiness. However, we also found that 94% of vacations result in higher levels of happiness and energy if you 1) plan a month in advance and prepare your coworkers for your time away, 2) go outside your city (the further the better), 3) met with a local host or other knowledgeable guide at the location, and 4) have the travel details set before going. Smart vacations lead to greater happiness and energy at work, and therefore, greater productivity, intelligence and resilience.
3. Your manager will perceive you as more productive.
According to research done by the U.S. Travel Association, managers associate personal happiness with productivity. In fact, when asked what vacation time benefit would motivate managers to talk to their employees about using more vacation days, the top benefit was increased personal happiness (31%), followed by productivity (21%). Why does happiness win out? Because most managers understand that happy employees are more productive and collaborative.
4. Not taking time off means giving yourself a pay cut.
There’s no research necessary for this one; it’s just simple economics. If you’re a salaried employee, and if paid vacation is part of your compensation package, you’re essentially taking a voluntary pay cut when you work instead of taking that vacation time. Why would anyone do that? Four out of 10 employees say that they can’t take their vacation because they have too much work to do. But, think about it this way: Whether or not you take a vacation, you’re still going to have a lot of work to do. Life is finite, and work is infinite.
But what if you work in a culture that’s just not supportive of taking vacations? In that case, it’s time to come together with your coworkers and create a new social script that says: “Of course we take all our paid days off, because we want greater happiness and success at work.” This gives everyone license to benefit from time off. Once the social script allows it, your decision to become happier becomes much easier.
Start changing the conversation in your own company right now, simply by sharing this research. Then, start planning your next vacation. It’s good for you, and your career.