Guest Contributor

The Benefits Of Taking Time Off Work

By | Debbie Sabin | President of Hour Timesheet

The ongoing pandemic has been difficult for everyone, bringing many troublesome changes to our lives. However, perhaps there is one good change that has come from it:We’re putting a little more life into the work/life balance.

No longer are people quite so willing to carry loads of available sick time like a badge of honor, as if dragging themselves into the office with a runny nose and cubicle-rattling cough would earn them employee of the month. No longer are we compelled to wink conspiratorially at colleagues the day after an absence, chuckling about a “mental health day.”

Vacation is good. Personal days are good — not just for the employee, but for the employer. Rested workers work better. We all know it, but too many of us don’t take advantage of it.

No-Vacation Nation

The Center for Economic and Policy Research has issued and twice revised a report about vacation time, and the latest version shows that roughly 25%of U.S. workers receive no paid vacations or holidays. Meanwhile, in the European Union, all workers are guaranteed at least 20 paid days off.

While most of those U.S. workers are in low-wage jobs, the spurning of time off goes up through the ranks. Studies consistently show that most full-time workers in the U.S. don’t use all their vacation time. In fact, some estimates suggest that about 500 million vacation days are left on the table annually by 122 million employees.

Most of those people working all those hours aren’t happy about it. They’re worried they’re eating poorly, getting too little exercise and too much stress — and they may be right.

The Risks of Overwork

If you work 55 hours a week or more, you have a 35% higher chance of stroke and 17% higher chance of becoming a heart disease fatality than those working between 35 and 40 hours.

Skipping vacation time has also been shown to increase the risk of developing heart disease.

Here’s Why Days Off Help Everyone

The benefits to employees are many, including:

  • Health: Overworking increases your risk for obesity, diabetes, insomnia, depression and anxiety.


  • Happiness: Americans who take all their vacation time report being happier in their personal and professional lives.
  • Better Sleep:When we have too much on our minds, we have trouble sleeping. Time off can help break the bad habits we fall into that disrupt sleep. Time away from home can also help break negative sleep patterns.
  • Brainpower: Where do you get your best ideas? On a walk, in the shower, or perhaps in a place that has nothing to do with the thing that pops into your mind in that “aha” moment. Unplugging from work plugs you into the parts of your brain that aren’t stimulated by routine, so you could see old situations in a new light.

Beyond increased productivity from refreshed workers, employers might have even greater incentives for seeing employees take time away, including:

  • Cross-training: Having other employees fill in for vacationers exposes more workers to more aspects of the company’s operations.
  • Scheduling: Planned time off (whether traditional vacation days or the more flexible PTO model) can reduce unplanned absences and the coverage issues that come with them.
  • Employee retention: Happy workers tend not to seek jobs elsewhere, and they tend to want to give back to the companies that treat them well.

What to Do?

If you’re running the company, consider moving to a leave management system—software that makes it easy to request, track, approve or deny time off requests. Given varying accrual rates and different kinds of time off—PTO, sick time, vacations, various types of paid and unpaid leaves, holidays—a leave system can save you the work of tracking time for management and staff. It can also help cut down on payroll errors, reduce paperwork and help make scheduling more efficient.

If you’re an employee, take the time you’ve earned. Not only will your body and mind thank you, but when you return a happier and more productive worker, so will your boss.


Debbie Sabin is President of Hour Timesheet, a provider of software tools for small to medium businesses that are looking to improve workflow processes related to payroll, billing or real-time reporting of their workforce. Sabin has over three decades of experience designing, implementing and supporting employee time tracking software.


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