How Taking PTO Can Help You Get Ahead at Work

When you get to relax and let out that long-awaited sigh, your body calms and cortisol decreases. During stressful times, your body may have a higher cortisol level than normal. This puts you into a constant state of fight or flight mode that has more than one downside. For instance, high cortisol levels can interrupt your sleep cycle, alter your eating habits, and negatively change your mood. Taking a break, whether through vacation time or daily relaxation practices, can help you find balance. 

Taking time off from work not only helps your productivity but can also benefit your wallet. In 2019, 55 percent of workers didn’t utilize any of their vacation time. That may seem typical for many Americans, but what if you found out that it could be costing you more than you think?

If you’re working for a company that allows paid time off, you may be losing money each year you don’t take it. In 2017 alone, there were 212 million unused paid time off days — that cost hard workers $62.2 billion in “lost benefits.” Although paid time off typically can’t be replaced with actual income, not taking allotted days if they’re part of your benefits package is like letting them expire. Many companies set aside a certain amount of funds since they expect their employees to take PTO each year. If you’re at a company that has a use it or lose it policy, you may be giving your PTO wage right back to your employer. 

The perfect vacation varies from person to person, but you deserve to take time for yourself. We’ve outlined our go-to tips for planning a vacation when work’s still knocking at your door and 5 ways to recharge without a vacation. Skip to our infographic below for a quick overview or keep reading for more detailed tips to boost your health, productivity, and creativity.  

5 Ways PTO Can Boost Your Productivity and Engagement

You may think that passing up your vacation time shows you’re a hard worker and that you’ll show up when your team needs you. But that could actually hurt your work results more than taking time off. The average American works around 50 hours a week, with the highest number of overworked employees in Alaska, North Dakota, Washington D.C., Texas, and South Dakota. Those in marketing, HR, IT, sales, and legal positions have reported working more than other professions. 

Constant stress can affect many different facets of your life. If you’re constantly working or stressing about work, here are a few ways taking a break could help you advance your career, budget, and life. 

benefits of taking pto illustration

1. Return to Work with More Motivation

Most of the time, you feel ready to hit the ground running at work after returning from a week away. You’ll likely feel energized to complete that task you’ve been dreading for months, or be ready to start a new project you thought of while relaxing. Sometimes, taking a step back from your day-to-day tasks can lead you to amazing breakthroughs. You may find yourself working harder and more efficiently than you did before.

Next time you’re on vacation, try to leave work behind. As 62 percent of employees admit to working through vacation, you may not be fully taking time to relax and rejuvenate.  

2. Rest, Relax, and Rejuvenate

Taking time to relax lowers your cortisol levels, which may lower your risk of chronic conditions. When relaxing, you may be able to decrease your anxiety by spending time outdoors and doing the things you love. No matter what your hobbies are, taking time for self-care is important.

Job stress can cost employers $300 billion per year when it comes to health issues caused by diminished performance and absences. If you aren’t able to take a full vacation, look for daily break opportunities like taking a long walk or relaxing with yoga. 

3. Give Your Creative Side a Boost 

Burnout can take a toll on your creativity. To combat it, find ways to relax so that you can flex your creative muscles. This can be hard if you’re constantly thinking about work, so it may take some practice. Simply changing your scenery and trying new things can tap into your creative side. Visit notable landmarks, make new friends, and try exotic food to open your mind. 

Relaxing allows you to think more freely and be more creative. Sometimes, we think of our best ideas while doing what we love. Next time you take time off, take a notebook for all the innovations you come up with. 

4. Choose To Take Care of Yourself 

Sixty-nine percent of workers in the U.S. choose not to take sick days, even when they’re feeling under the weather. While some put work ahead of their health, they may cause more harm. Not only are employees not getting the rest they need to recover, but it may also put team members at risk of getting sick. This may start an endless cycle of sick employees that can cost the national economy over $160 billion in lost productivity over the year. The next time you’re sick, download our self-care printables for something relaxing to do at home. 

Be sure to stay home and take care of your body whenever you’re sick. You may end up saving yourself from critical errors at work and help prevent others from getting sick. It can be hard to focus on tedious tasks and make hard decisions when your head is throbbing. As your productivity takes a 40 percent dip when you’re sick, take the time to recover and come back once you’re better. 

5. Foster Healthy Relationships

When you work more than normal, you cut into your personal time. If you have loved ones that tell you how much your extra work impacts your relationships, it may be worth taking some time off to relax and invest in the people you cherish the most. When you take time off, try to stay offline until you return from your break. 

Check out our infographic for tips on taking a vacation when work never stops and easy ways to decompress throughout your workday. 

benefits of taking pto infographic

Stepping away from work can be easier said than done. But taking time off and relaxing may help you improve your performance by boosting productivity and engagement. You may be able to tap into your innovative side more easily than you would have overworking week after week. Instead of working yourself into the ground, take time off and you may be surprised with the results. Make sure to download our app to budget and start saving for your vacation.

When times are busy, taking time off or going away on vacation isn’t always doable. If your family’s ready to relax at home, check out our favorite staycation printables. If you’re ready to boost your career by taking more reading breaks, check out our best financial books for every stage of your life to kick back and decompress. 

Source: LiveWell | National Partnerships | Forbes 1, 2, 3 | Reader’s Digest | HR Dive | US Travel | Time | Psychology Today | The Recovery Village | Brandon Gaille | Mental Help | Allina Health | Newsday | Business Insider | Inc. | Insider | HuffPost | Web MD | Medical News Today | CNBC | Connect Solutions | SHRM | Market Watch | Sitel Group

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