Take Your Vacation Days to Get Ahead

Aug 7, 2023 | Quick Takes

Have you left vacation days on the table? If so, you’re not alone. Pew Research reported that nearly half (46%) of workers with Paid Time Off typically take less time off than their employer offers.

What?!? 😮

I get it. Early in my career, I didn’t take all my vacation days. I was in a culture of leaders who role-modeled lonnnnnng days, weekends, and sometimes holidays. By taking a vacation, I feared falling behind or being replaced. I felt guilty leaving colleagues with extra work and overwhelmed by returning to work with even MORE in my inbox. 😩

Always busy is good, right? Wrong. 🙅‍♀️

I worked myself to both illness and exhaustion – typically losing my voice at least twice a year. If I took a vacation, it was often to get well and catch up on sleep. 😴

Unhealthy on every level.

As author, Joanne Lipman recently said, “Part of the problem is disentangling ourselves from a culture that fetishizes busyness.”

Yep, that was me. 😓

So, with the encouragement and support of a career coach, I made some big changes to reset around busyness, working hard, and being “always on.” My focus became working smarter, not harder. This shift restored my health and introduced more work.life harmony, AND helped me accelerate my career – while taking all my vacation days! 🌴

So how do you properly take your vacation?

Block vacation on your calendar 🗓️

At the beginning of each year, block (and color code) your allotted days. Revisit this every 30-60 days and make adjustments as your schedule evolves or as your ideas on what to do or where to go unfold.

Plan inspiring experiences 🎨

Vacations don’t require going far or spending tons of money. Explore activities that spark ideas and new perspectives. That could include taking a flying trapeze class (I did this!), visiting museums, learning to paint, or exploring new hiking trails.

Commit to a digital detox 📵

Spending vacation time scrolling or responding to work emails is not the path to rejuvenation. Leave your laptop behind. Put your phone in the hotel safe or on Do Not Disturb (and resist the urge to check it more than once or twice per day!).

Trust your teammates 🤝

Know that things at work will run without you. And yes, you might have a lot to tackle when you return, but you will be rested, rejuvenated, and ready to roll.

I’m ready for a vacation but how do I get my company on board?

It’s one thing to establish your vacation practice and another to have the support of your employer.

Time off should be expected and required. 🙌

Some companies are waking up to the myth of productivity and the importance of rest and renewal in order to retain talent and get the best work outcomes.


  • Unlimited PTO often leads to employees taking LESS vacation, so Goldman Sachs mandates a minimum of 15 days off with at least 5 consecutive days 🏝️
  • As the pain of the pandemic was felt company-wide, Bumble gave its employees a week off (at the same time) to collectively rest and reset 🏖️
  • Zendesk offers Recharge Fridays – one Friday off each month to, yes, recharge mentally and physically 🔄
  • To encourage more vacations, leading companies such as Evernote, Calendly, and Expedia offer travel stipends to all employees 🏙️

Vacation is good for us. Physically. Mentally. And financially. An HBR study of 5000 people revealed that those who took vacation were promoted at nearly twice the rate of their counterparts who didn’t.

So, to this I say, Bon voyage! 🌊


If your work.life feels out of control, take control.

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