Take the Time to Take Time-Off: 3 Reasons to Use Your PTO
According to a recent report published by the U.S. Travel Association following a study conducted by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, “Americans took the least amount of vacation time in almost four decades [in 2013], forfeiting billions of dollars in compensation.”
We all know how PTO works: You put in a certain number hours with a company and they in turn reward you with a fraction of those hours as “paid time-off.”
However, research shows that an estimated 40 percent of American workers don’t even plan to use the hours they’ve earned in 2014—a far cry from the estimated 80 percent of Americans who actually took a weeklong vacation in the 1970s.
The worst part? According to the report, this seemingly altruistic move was done “without scoring points with their bosses.”
So why are American workers so keen on being “martyrs”? One theory is fear: fear of returning to an overwhelming pile of work; fear of the work not getting done in one’s absence; and, most importantly, fear of being replaced or viewed as replaceable when the company continues without their presence.
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According to Michael Leiter, a psychology professor at Acadia University, “People are afraid if they’re not present and they’re not continually churning stuff out that bad things are going to happen.”
Here are three reasons why you should throw out those fears and take the time to take time-off:
- The Burnout Factor. We’ve all heard the adage “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” but that’s not all it does: It also makes for a less effective employee. When we’re tired, our cognitive resources are drained and we cannot perform tasks as easily as when we’re clear-minded and refreshed. In addition, being overworked causes negative feelings towards the company, the job and even bosses or colleagues. Bottom line: We get cranky, and when we’re cranky, we aren't as sharp and we certainly don't enjoy our work. According to the report, 65 percent of respondents believe their concentration and productivity improve after taking time off while another 61 percent report greater satisfaction at work.
- It's Healthy. When it comes to stress, what happens in the workplace doesn’t stay in the workplace. Excessive stress can not only hinder productivity, it can also affect your health. Lack of sleep, poor eating habits and little to no exercise are common traits that go hand-in-hand with overworking, so it’s imperative that we take a break, recharge and refresh. In a study conducted by Expedia, 45 percent of Americans agreed that after taking a vacation, the return to work feeling “rested, rejuvenated, and reconnected to their personal life" while another 35 percent return to work feeling more productive and even better about their job. Positive mood, positive outlook and a positively rested mind.
- You’ve Earned It. As mentioned above, vacation time, or paid time-off, is accumulated—you have to put in work to be able to take off work. So what happens to those hours if unused? Typically they disappear, which is essentially the same as throwing away money. Would you actually take a stack of $20 bills and throw it in a trash can? Doubtful. Why, then, would you mirror that action with unused PTO? As pointed out in the U.S. Travel Association’s report, the average American only used 16 out of 20.9 vacation days in 2013, which may not sound like a large difference until they hit you with this fact: When added up, 169 million days of unused vacation time in the U.S. equated to $52.4 billion in lost benefits. That’s a lot of money in the trash can.
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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.