Vacation: It Works

Time off makes a difference to mood and productivity. It is time that employers enforce a policy that refreshes and renews the workforce.

Vacation: It Works

It’s time to get lost.

Photo by Edmund Garman

Recently I was listening to a talk by Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels, when he mentioned a statistic that really grabbed my attention: Americans leave 429 million vacation days unused every year.

I looked into it further. Turns out, the United States is the only developed country not to require employers to provide paid time off, and according to a study by Oxford Economics, Americans are using less vacation time than ever. From 1976 through 2000, Americans used 20.3 vacation days a year. In 2013, we used 16.

This has to change. Americans need to take time off, and they need to travel.

The purpose of time off is to take a break from your workday routine. To allow yourself to think about other things. To recharge. And travel does this better than anything else. On the road, we uncover new ways to think about others and ourselves; to see the world through a different lens and enrich our lives. This makes us better individuals, and the more people who live this way, the better for all of us.

I know. There is a lot of pressure on employees to do more. Our inboxes overflow, our social media feeds never slow down, we have spreadsheets and Slack messages and meetings. There is always more work to do. But that’s actually another argument for taking a vacation. The Society for Human Resources Management surveyed HR managers, and more than three quarters of them said that employees who use their vacation time are more productive than those who don’t. Putting ourselves in unfamiliar environs does something to our minds and our spirits that frees us.

At AFAR, we provide 30 days of paid time off for all our full-time employees—and more based on seniority. We also provide them with a $2,000 stipend each year to travel to places they have never been. We believe in the power of travel. It’s good for the world and good for our bottom line. The best employees are those who are engaged with their work, engaged with the world, and energized by opportunities to see new and different things.

There’s so much to experience in this world. Let’s not let another day—or 400 million days—pass us by.

Update, July 8, 2019: AFAR’s vacation policy has since become even more robust. In 2018, the company instituted a policy of unlimited vacation days for all employees.

>>Next: The Scenic Route: A Guide to the World’s Best Road Trips

Greg Sullivan is the cofounder and CEO of AFAR. You can reach Greg at
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