Everyone needs regular vacations to stay healthy, happy and refresh relationships.

Do you feel like you’re part of a ‘vacation starved’ society because your family never got away for that two-week beach break last summer?  Whether or not you have a workaholic at home, you probably are. According to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Association (USTA), there were 429 million paid vacation days forfeited in 2013. That means wage earners – many of them workaholics — chose to work through 85 million paid vacation weeks instead of taking the time off with loved ones.

In other words, 42% of the American workforce either took no paid vacation time or got none.

As far back as 1910, President William Howard Taft suggested that American workers get three months’ annual vacation time because everyone knew it was healthy. Despite workaholics who think such behavior is virtuous, vacation deprivation is a real concern to economists, employers and human resource managers. At the recent Vacation Commitment Summit organized by TakeBackYourTime.org and sponsored in part by Diamond Resorts International, several experts spoke on the topic.

Really? Is Vacation Starvation a Real Concern?

Those who can’t wait to bolt out of town when the last school bell rings find it hard to believe that anyone would ignore a paid vacation break.

According to David Palmer, President and CEO of Diamond Resorts International and an evangelist for the “stay vacationed” movement, totally sane employees forego vacations for a variety of reasons, some very mundane. Job insecurity and plain old “too much work” are the main culprits, but for many it’s no backup care for elders, no extra funds to get away, or even the lack of a pet sitter. His company’s support for this vacation initiative extends to providing value vacation opportunities for their own workforce.

Vacation = Resource Recovery

Work-life balance expert and author Joe Robinson cited a finding that more engaged employees produce 19% more ROI, and reported on the adverse effects resulting from not taking time off.  According to Robinson, “stress undermines intellect and is the cause of 40% of employee turnover – all at a cost of $400 billion to U.S. businesses.” 

Kenneth Matos of the Families and Work Institute shared research from the “National Study of the Changing Workforce” that showed a sharp increase in employee time famine — growing numbers of workers who claim they don’t have enough time to spend with their kids, spouses/partners, or by themselves. They are advocating for a federal labor standard that would give employees a minimum 10 paid vacation days and five paid sick days.

“This issue is a major concern for a variety of reasons,” said John de Graaf, founder of Take Back Your Time. “Not just pertaining to work productivity, which is an issue in and of itself, but also to personal happiness and fulfillment, because we are not taking regular vacations.”

Enforcing Vacations: Companies Do Well by Doing Good

Susan Kunreuther, MasterCard’s Executive V.P. Global Total Rewards and M&A noted how successful their in-house initiative #onemoreday had been in encouraging MasterCard’s employees to spend one day longer on their out of office breaks.

Laurie Brednich, Director, Employee Benefits for the webhosting company Go Daddy (known for its frisky Super Bowl commercials), added that they had an edge on recruiting technologists because of their liberal take-whatever-you-need vacation policies. Both women reiterated that forward-thinking vacation policies which encourage employees to take the time they need to refresh, recharge and rejuvenate paid off.

The similarly focused Project: Time Off, launched by USTA, shared research showing that two-thirds of employers are not so enlightened. “There is a tremendous gap between what managers believe and what they say in words and actions,” said Gary Oster, managing director. “As a result, employees are erring on the side of caution and not using their earned time off.”

What the Travel Industry is Doing

The travel industry supported the Vacation Commitment Summit, bringing together HR professionals and executives to talk about making vacations more accessible, providing more vacation benefits for all workers, and creating better vacation planning tools for consumers.

Diamond Resorts International isn’t kidding about “stay vacationed.” Because they manage vacation ownership resorts and sell members vacation ownership points at over 330 managed and affiliated properties in 34 countries, including throughout the continental U.S., Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and several continents, they are in a position to do something about it.

For employees, DRI does regular contests to give away vacations and, for guests, plans special activities.  During the summer of 2015, the company is running the “Vacations for Life Summer Family Fun” program at resorts in the U.S., Mexico and Caribbean through August 6.  (In Europe, the program will run July 18 through August 28.) Families who want to vacation as overnight guests can book at the Diamond Resorts deals site.

Every Monday through Thursday at U.S. resorts, this popular program (drawing 75,000 participants last year and totally free of charge) includes a welcome party as well as games, raffles, prizes, food and music. During their stay, families can follow the daily schedule to partake in activities like Junior Summer Chef, a top chef style game where participants have kid-friendly ingredients and compete to make the best dish. (They also receive recipe cards to take home.) How about putting heads together for the jelly bean guessing game, or trying the electric slide, scavenger hunts, hula hoops or water balloon contests.

There’s more customized to each resort destination; at Mystic Dunes Resort in Orlando for example, families love the low as you can go Limbo Contest, Chipping Contest for budding golfers, and the nostalgic Name That Tune. They even have a super-sized version of Jenga to play by the pool.

Many hotel chains and resorts provide value-added family activities that are a way to scale back the family vacation budget — without risking boredom.

We are the Change We Want to See

Have you heard enough to change a workaholic behavior?

We believe change starts at home. Sit down with the family, go over the potential vacation breaks in every family member’s schedule, and find a way to make this work.

After all, with 71% of those polled saying they led happier lives after having vacationed, what do you have to lose?

 

 

 

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