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Three Stats to Convince You to Disconnect Over the Holidays

By Paige Kassalen

Once late December rolls around, the office starts to grow quiet, and it becomes harder to schedule meetings and push projects along. I look forward to this annual slowdown because it gives us all a chance to take a break.

Taking time off is important for many reasons. We come back refreshed, more creative, and with enough energy to drive results. Most people would agree that taking time off is beneficial, so why is that not reflected in the data?

According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2018, 55% of Americans did not use all of their paid time off, resulting in a total of 768 million unused vacation days.

So how does this happen? Why aren’t we taking more time off?

As you are planning for the end of the year, here are three statistics to convince you to disconnect:

Employees who forfeit vacation time are less likely than non-forfeiters to have been promoted within the last year (23% to 27%) and to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years (78% to 84%) – (U.S. Travel Association – Project Time Off, 2017)

This research introduced an idea of a “work martyr,” and defined it as someone who finds it difficult or does not take time off because they feel no one else can do their job. We probably all know one — or multiple people — like this, or we might even be that person.

The data shows that the work martyr mentality does not help you get ahead. So, this holiday season, if you find yourself missing out on spending time with your family and friends because of work, take the time to reflect on what you are trying to achieve.

If you’re looking to get a big promotion or raise, then the data might be working against you. Instead, take the time off, recharge, and reset your mind so you can come back into the new year stronger than ever.

76% of employees experience workplace burnout at least sometimes – (Gallup, 2022)

In 2019, the World Health Organization announced that it would officially update its definition of “burnout” to a “syndrome,” specifically tied to chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

As a society, we are working to adapt our workplace policies to recognize that mental health is equally as important as physical health. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, and feeling anxious or depressed at work, we should not just try to power through.

An easy way to reduce burnout is to take some time for yourself, and put some distance between you and the things that are leading to burnout. The holidays are the perfect time to do this because you most likely won’t be missing much.

Pew Research found that 49% of employees said they worry about falling behind at work if they were to take more time off. This is consistently one of the top reasons across many sources for why people don’t take time off.

The benefit of disconnecting over the holidays is that you won’t return to an inbox full of emails and hours of catch up. Instead, you’ll return more relaxed and mentally able to continue pushing yourself to deliver.

One in two people (52%) feel stressed and pressured by the expectation to be constantly available for work, and 60% of people plan to leave work notifications on during the holidays – (survey completed by Slack, 2022)

The data shows that people feel pressured to be constantly available, so if we don’t disconnect, then we aren’t just forfeiting our time with our families, but we end up making our colleagues, customers and vendors forfeit time with their families as well.

More employees than ever have their email and messaging apps right at their fingertips every day. Even if we turn notifications off, it’s hard to help from occasionally looking to see if anything is going on at work.

Every person that is part of an organization has a role in creating the culture. Even if your organization isn’t formally shutting down over the holidays, you have the ability to put into place measures to ensure people are able to disconnect.

Some ideas are to not schedule meetings the last week of December, use delay send features if you are working and sending emails to a colleague that is taking time off, or even just ending days a little earlier because things tend to average out eventually.

The holidays are an opportunity to disconnect, and we just need to let ourselves and our teams take this opportunity. The data is aligned and shows that there are many benefits when it comes to taking vacation.

By taking time off, we increase our odds of getting promoted or getting a raise. We prioritize and invest in our mental health to reduce burnout. And, finally, we create a culture that we want to be a part of by providing space for our colleagues and teams to take their much-needed time off to recharge, as well.

We all want to start the new year stronger than ever, and to do that, we must take the time to disconnect.

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Paige Kassalen

Paige Kassalen has an electrical engineering degree from Virginia Tech and a Master of Information Systems Management from Carnegie Mellon. Kassalen began her career as the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in Glamour, Teen Vogue, and Fast Company. Since Solar Impulse, Kassalen worked in the manufacturing and finance industries to create implementation strategies for a range of emerging technology trends from autonomous vehicles to machine learning. She was the Chief Operating Officer at CrowdAI, a start-up named by Forbes as one of the most promising AI companies in 2021. CrowdAI was acquired by Saab, Inc. in 2023, and Kassalen now serves as the Chief of Staff for the strategy division.

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