A good vacation can be one of the most relaxing things you can do for yourself. Whether you prefer the beach, camping, or grilling out in your backyard, down time is something we all need.
Unfortunately, we don’t all get this much-needed time to relax.
In the United States, companies are not required to offer a minimum amount of vacaction time to workers. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), 77 percent of US employers offer paid vacation time. On average, however, it’s not much: The typical US worker only gets 10 paid vacation days a year.
Compare the average US worker’s vacation time to that of workers around the world, and it becomes clear we’re on the lower end of the spectrum. In France, employees are granted 30 days a year. In Australia, the minimum is 20 days. Canada and Japan are closer to the US, mandating 10 paid vacation days a year — but remember, the US has no mandate whatsoever.
And what are US workers doing with their 10 days off every year? Not much, it turns out.
I recently heard the term “vacation shaming.” While the phrase itself was new to me, the idea was not: Many employers make workers feel guilty and ashamed for taking time off. As a result, many US workers fail to use all their vacation days every year. According to Glassdoor, the average US employee only takes about half of their allotted vacation time every year.
When we do take vacation time, many of us stay plugged in. We answer emails, take phone calls, and sometimes attend meetings remotely. The previously cited Glassdoor survey found that 66 percent of Americans work while on vacation!
Some companies also place limits on how employees use vacation. For example, a company may have a policy that forbids employees from taking more than five consecutive days off. This can really constrain your vacation options! International destinations are hard to do in such a brief time frame.
To be your best at work, you have to be your best outside of work, too. That requires taking care of yourself. Taking a vacation is a great way to rest up, re-energize, and return to work ready to be even more productive — provided your employer gives you the opportunity in the first place.
If you’re looking for a new job, do your best to learn about the company’s vacation policies — both official and unofficial. Online employee review sites can give you a good look at some of the unspoken rules surrounding vacation time.
Don’t forget that vacation time is negotiable, just like salary. When you negotiate your offer letter, know that you can ask for additional time off.
In the long run, taking time for yourself is too important for your personal and professional well-being. Whenever possible, don’t let yourself be shamed out of taking a much-deserved vacation. We all need a break sometimes.
A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.