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Taking a vacation benefits both employees and employers

Family wading at beach

For most employees, the highlight of the year comes with the time they take away from their workplace for a vacation. The reward of a couple weeks away from work spent with family or friends can keep most employees working and working and working for the remaining 50 weeks of the year.

But some employees work all year with no break, essentially returning the value of those vacation benefits to their employers. Estimates of vacation benefits not taken run as high as $1.93 billion dollars annually.

Sound hard to believe?

A 2010 survey conducted by Right Management found that 66 percent of the employees polled had not used all of their allotted paid vacation in the previous year. That included many upper-management employees as well as staff.

One reason given by employees for not taking vacation time was the current economy. They felt the tough business conditions warranted extra time on the job. An underlying reason, according to staff employees, was fear of job security. Employees felt that working through vacation time would help them keep their jobs during the next round of layoffs.

Many employees feel that if something happens to one of their customers no one is there to take care of it. Customers may be able to call the customer service line and get help, but customer service may not handle it as well as an employee who knows them and their business.

For other employees, it's even more negative. Some become so overwhelmed with the demands of their job responsibilities, that they just can't get away from it. For them, the rewards of getting away on vacation can be offset with the dread of what will be waiting for them when they return. Work piles up, and with today's high-tech business environment, an employee could come back to face hundreds of emails.

The sad part is that almost all employees lose vacation benefits not used.

A U.S. Department of Labor Statistics survey of medium to large firms shows that over 60 percent of the companies in the country have a "use it or lose it" policy for unused vacation days.

The same survey shows that 20 percent of companies allow employees to carry over their days to the next year, and 10 percent of companies let employees cash in some or all of their vacation benefits.

But for the large majority, the chance to get away and recharge is lost. That is a loss for both the employee and the company.

According to the survey, it's counterproductive to have employees burning the midnight oil without a break. Companies end up with employee burnout, where people are not working at their full potential.

It is important for employees to take care of themselves. That means paying attention to all needs, physical, mental, psychological and spiritual.

The more balanced people can be in all these areas, the more creativity and fresh perspective they have to bring to their work. If employees are depleted of energy, then they do not perform a peak levels. Taking the available vacation time from their employers can be very positive for the employees and everyone they interact with at work.

Which, in turn, can benefit the bottom line for the company. When employee's energy levels are up, their performance is markedly better. That positive attitude will help the company in both tangible and intangible ways.

Upper-management can send a distinct message to their employees by taking vacation and encouraging staff to do so. The end result can be a renewed and recharged workforce ready to deal.