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Why Workers Fail to Take Advantage of PTO Power

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Unlocking Health, Happiness, and Productivity

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We often associate taking time off from work with luxury or indulgence. However, academic research suggests that using your Paid Time Off (PTO) can benefit your health, happiness, and productivity at work.

Moreover, for married couples, these benefits are even more amplified. Let's dive into the science behind the importance of fully utilizing your PTO. Despite the numerous benefits of taking time off, many workers still need to fully utilize their PTO. Several academic studies and surveys have sought to understand why.

Why Workers Fail to Use Their PTO

A survey by the U.S. Travel Association found that the primary reason workers left vacation days unused was the fear of appearing replaceable or less dedicated to their job. This 'work martyr' culture promotes the idea that being constantly available and working long hours is a badge of honor. It can create a climate of fear and anxiety around PTO, even when available and encouraged.

This fear, compounded by concerns of returning to a mountain of work, acts as a major deterrent for employees to use their PTO fully.

Similar research suggests that a "lack of support from management" significantly influences PTO usage. If employees perceive that their superiors frown upon taking time off or if there's no clear communication about the company's PTO policy, they're less likely to take full advantage of their allotted vacation days.

Boosting Health and Happiness

Taking time off from work can significantly impact your physical and mental health. A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that vacationing can lower stress and lead to less risk of heart disease. The break from work allows you to recover from the chronic stress of professional life, resulting in improved health outcomes.


Moreover, vacation time can also boost your happiness. Research has found that a break from regular work schedules allows for personal time, relaxation, and fun, significantly contributing to our overall well-being and happiness.

Enhancing Productivity

Taking time off may seem counterintuitive to productivity, but research suggests otherwise. A study shared in the Harvard Business Review shows that employees who take all of their PTO are more productive than those who don't. This is because time off allows employees to recharge, increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

Couples and PTO: The Happiness Boost

The benefits of using all PTO are even more significant for married couples. There is clear evidence that shared leisure time, such as that provided by vacation, can increase marital satisfaction. This shared time leads to happier marriages, facilitating quality time, communication, and shared experiences, enhancing the relationship's overall happiness and satisfaction.

The Takeaway

The hustle and bustle of work-life may make us believe that taking time off is counterproductive. However, research proves that taking all your PTO leads to lower stress levels, higher happiness, and increased productivity.

For married couples, it’s a recipe for a happier relationship. So next time you think about skipping your vacation, remember the science-backed benefits of utilizing all your PTO. Recharge, relax, and return happier and more productive.

Take every moment, and make every moment of your PTO count!


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American Psychological Association. “How Stress Affects Your Health.” APA, 2013.

Harvard Business Review. “The Data-Driven Case for Vacation.” HBR, 2016.

Claxton, Amy, and Maureen Perry-Jenkins. “No Fun Anymore: Leisure and Marital Quality Across the Transition to Parenthood.” Journal of marriage and the family vol. 70,1 (2008): 28-43. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00459.x

Project: Time Off. “State of American Vacation 2018.” U.S. Travel Association, 2018.


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