When considering employment with a company, one benefit that seems especially important to a lot of employees is the ability to take leave, or even better, have an allotted amount of paid time off.  So why is it that the bargaining chip that we perhaps negotiated so hard to gain is one that is often grossly underutilized?   There are several people out there who no matter how badly the kids beg for a trip to Disney World or no matter how hard it is for them to sit for 5 minutes without a violent coughing fit, they still fail to utilize the sick days and vacation days they have earned as part of their employment package.  There is something about taking the day off that sometimes feels taboo or forbidden, even though it is an earned right, and can actually be very beneficial for you and your career in the long run!  Here are some reasons why you should take advantage of your days off.

Your Health
Too often, employees grab their bottle of Nyquil and box of tissues and head off on their morning commute, determined not to succumb to their illness and sacrifice a day of work.  Trust us, you aren’t doing yourself, or your company, any favors by “toughing it out.”  There is a line between being legitimately sick or just calling off because you have a minor headache, but especially in cases of contagious illnesses, it is best to cash in one of those sick days.  If you don’t do it now and take care of yourself right away, you could be cashing in several more after your illness progresses from lack of attention in the initial stages.  Also, coming to work and spreading your germs amongst your coworkers could result in an epidemic of employees staying home sick.  We are pretty sure your employer would much rather you stake out in your bed for the day and return to work rejuvenated, healthy, and good as new, instead of drawing out an illness or spreading it to other workers.

Stress Levels and Mental Wellbeing
Beyond just your physical health, it is important you keep yourself balanced mentally as well.  “Mental health days” are truly a legitimate use of your time off, as everyone needs a little mental break from work every now and again.  All work and no play may have just made Jack a dull boy, but for the majority of us, it can drain our morale and make us more prone to stress.  It can affect your personality and mood, both at work and at home, if you don’t take the time to “recharge the batteries” so to speak.  Take the day to catch up on errands, or catch up on your sleep.  If you have earned the time off, go ahead and take it!

One reason that many people pass on taking their allotted days off from work is because they don’t want to miss a beat in their work.  While this can be a legitimate and well-intentioned concern, taking time off can sometimes even BOOST your productivity, when taken wisely.  Of course, if you are in the middle of a big project or an important duty, it is not the best time to jet off on a cruise.  But timing a vacation after the completion of a project or during the quieter season in your business is a perfect opportunity to get out of the office, rejuvenate, and return to work with heightened morale and enthusiasm about getting right back at all of your tasks.  If you just let one project roll into the other and never give yourself a chance to celebrate your hard work or regroup with friends and family, it can get you into a rut where every day feels mundane and you are stuck in the mud.  A well timed vacation where you have planned ahead and covered your bases will not affect your productivity and can get you into an enthusiastic and ambitious state of mind to start tackling even more projects when you return.

Work/Life Balance
One complaint many people have with their jobs is their lack of work/life balance.  While a lot of jobs are very demanding on a day to day basis, you can improve your own work/life balance simply by taking advantages of the benefits your employer has given you up front.  Many people lose morale, and consequently productivity, when they start to resent their job or employer because of a lack of time with friends or family.  As one of the top reasons employees get fed up with their jobs, it is never more important to get away for that long girls weekend, or take the family on a road trip.  You will be happier, and more successful, in your career in the long run.

All in all, many people do not use their days off because of the fear of losing tempo with work.  However, this kind of grueling schedule will undoubtedly cause you to lose steam.  To keep a more sustainable stream of positive morale and productivity at your job, make sure you are taking care of yourself physically and mentally.  Go ahead, plan that cruise for this year.  You’ve earned it!