How to Take a Vacation Without Damaging Your Career

Want help with your hiring? It's easy. Enter your information below, and we'll quickly reach out to discuss your hiring needs.

BalloonsAs temperatures start to soar this summer holiday season, it’s likely that many of you will be thinking about surf, sand, sun, and some good, old-fashioned rest and relaxation.

At least, that’s what I would like to think. But the sad reality is that it seems the majority of you will not be thinking such positive thoughts. In fact, many of you are worried about taking your paid vacation days for fear that doing so will damage your career.

According to this Glassdoor poll, only 25 percent of you use all your paid vacation time each year, and 61 percent of you say that you work when you’re supposed to be on vacation.

Glassdoor’s survey outlines the reasons why many workers are reluctant to enjoy their paid holidays. It seems that:

  • 33 percent of respondents feel that no one else in the company could do their work;
  • 28 percent worry that they would fall behind on work;
  • 17 percent are concerned they’d lose their jobs;
  • 17 percent are worried they won’t meet their performance goals;
  • and 13 percent want to outperform their colleagues.

There were plenty of other reasons for why employees weren’t taking their vacations as well, but, ultimately, it seems that most workers are worried that taking their vacation time would damage or limit their careers in some way.

We really should be taking holidays. Doing so can improve our health and well-being, not to mention the fact that we are actually losing money by not taking our paid vacation days. Surveys show that Americans lose around $52.4 billion in forfeited holiday benefits each year. That’s why I thought I would provide some tips on how to take a vacation without damaging your career, in order to help employees feel more comfortable about taking some well-deserved time off:

1. Take Your Holidays When Key Influencers and Contacts Are Taking Their Holidays

If you are worried about falling behind, try to take your holidays during the slowest business periods of the year, when your key decision makers and major clients are also on holiday. With so many influential people away, it’s likely that projects will stall anyway, and you won’t be able to make any meaningful progress, regardless of whether or not you take a holiday.

SnailsOn the flip side, if you are on holiday when key influencers are on holiday and projects are stalling, you simply won’t lose anywhere near as much ground. In fact, you might not lose any ground at all.

As a bonus, you will also be more able to switch off and relax on your holiday if you take time off when your projects are on hold. You won’t need to contact colleagues or worry about what’s going on in your absence — meaning you can really enjoy your time away from the office.

When you take a holiday that coincides with key influencers’ holidays and business slowdowns, you’ll reduce the career-damaging effects of a break and maximize the energy-boosting results of taking a good vacation.

You might need to do a bit of investigating and political maneuvering to find out who is taking holidays and when in order to match and your own holiday period to theirs, but it will be worth the effort.

2. Plan Your Vacation Well to Maximize Its Restorative Effects 

It’s vital that you recharge on your holiday so that you can return to work full of energy and ideas. This will help you to quickly compensate for any ground you may have lost while on holiday. This is backed up by research presented in the Harvard Business Review, which found that a positive vacation boosts our energy and reduces our stress. The study found that 94 percent of respondents had as much or more energy after returning from a good trip, and 55 percent returned with even higher levels of energy than they had before the trip — but only if their vacations were “positive” and “well-managed.” Poorly planned vacations can have the opposite effect, sapping your energy and leaving you feeling even worse than when you left.

CarsWhat can you do to ensure your vacation is a positive, restorative experience? To start, 90 percent of the people who reported having positive trips said they had planned their trips at least one month in advance, so avoid booking last-minute vacations. You should also think about going outside of your home country, as the study found that 84 percent of the best, happiest trips were trips to foreign destinations. You may also want to take a real vacation, not a staycation: 94 percent of respondents found their vacations more meaningful when they actually went somewhere.

In conclusion, if you want to take a vacation and minimize the damage a holiday might do to your career, you need keep a few things in mind:

  • take the vacation when business slows down and key influencers are away;
  • make sure to plan your vacation thoroughly;
  • and be sure to actually enjoy your vacation — don’t just look through your work email in a foreign country.

By Kazim Ladimeji