Why Do So Many Life Sciences Professionals Refuse to Take a Vacation?

Woman on beach working on her laptop

In response to the interest we received from this article on the importance of taking paid vacation time, Biospace recently conducted a poll and asked our readership of life sciences professionals whether or not they managed to use up all of their paid vacation days every year.

The responses we received paint a bleak picture for the state of the vacation in the life sciences industry. Nearly half of all respondents -- 45% to be exact -- reported that, for one reason or another, it’s simply too difficult for them to miss work purely for vacation or leisure time, even when the vacation days are paid for and offered by their employer as a component of their overall employee benefits package.

Considering the important role vacation days play in supporting a healthy work/life balance and even promoting improved performance on the job (a happier, less stressed out employee is a more productive employee, after all), why are so many professionals choosing to neglect their vacation time and leave so many unused PTO days on the table at the end of each year?

According to one Glassdoor survey, many people choose not to utilize all of their paid vacation time out of fear -- fear of falling behind in their workload, fear of leaving your colleagues in the lurch or with limited resources in your absence, fear of being ‘disconnected’ and offline for an extended period of time (that same survey also reported that, out of the people who do take PTO, 66% report working some during their vacation), fear of being viewed as less productive, less engaged or even fired, or an overall fear that if you’re not there, the work simply won’t get done.  

Of course, lack of resources for some may play a part. For those with little to no travel budget, taking a paid vacation might seem pointless if you actually can’t afford to travel or make the most of your time off. Similarly, if employers offer to “pay out” employees for unused paid vacation days, people may be incentivized to skip their leisure time and use that instead as a supplemental source of income.

And sometimes, culture plays a role… If you happen to work for a company or organization that harbors a kind of unspoken rule against paid vacation time (they may not actively discourage employees from taking time off, but it’s something that just isn’t done if you want to get ahead), then you may be inclined to follow suit so you don’t draw any unwanted attention to yourself as the office “slacker.”

Whatever the driver is that leads employees to power through the year on little or no PTO, the data remains unchanged and overwhelmingly conclusive… taking all of your paid vacation time leads to better outcomes at both at work and in your personal life.

From having a positive impact on your personal health, to improving your relationships, combating burnout and workplace fatigue, recharging your creative side, reducing stress, giving you lasting (and often priceless) memories with your friends and family, helping you to achieve work/life balance, improving your overall job satisfaction levels, enhancing your ability to focus at work and stay motivated and energized, improving your sleep quality or sleep patterns, and, in general, making you a happier, more relaxed person… paid vacation days are one of the most valuable professional assets you have and, when taken full advantage of, can yield significant benefits to your overall health, well-being, happiness levels, and professional success.

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