you might get paid more if you take a vacation, your brain wants to procrastinate, and more

Over at QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several interesting work-related stories in the news right now, including what the data says about why you should take a vacation (it may make you more likely to get a raise or bonus), how to beat your brain’s natural proclivities toward procrastinating, and more. You can read it here.

{ 49 comments… read them below }

  1. Rincat*

    The Olympics one made me think of an article I read a while ago about how exercise-related injuries spike during Olympics time, because people get inspired and try to workout like the athletes do. That will definitely hinder your productivity as well!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      LOL I always get asked about my Olympic aspirations during the winter games. No, I do not nor will I ever skate well enough to attend the Olympics. Nor do I want to!

    2. CM*

      I thought the Olympics productivity drop was going to be because of people staying up late to watch. (Same with Oscars, DNC/RNC, and other late night events, but the Olympics lasts longer than those.) I am very frustrated that I’ve missed all the gymnastics because at that point I’m snoring on the couch!

  2. Lemon Zinger*

    I’m going on a quick trip to San Francisco this weekend! It’ll be a much-needed reset, and I certainly hope that I feel more productive when I return to work.

  3. Sammy*

    My theory on the vacation thing is it gives your office a chance to miss you. If you’re out for two weeks and everyone’s more crunched than usual, they might conclude you must do a lot they don’t usually notice.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I wonder if this has something to do with it, too. My theory is that a lot of work is invisible – until it’s not getting done, or not getting done well. People don’t tend to think about what goes into making something happen, unless they’re directly involved, or affected if something goes wrong.

      So, if you’re out for a bit, and either someone else has to cover stuff or stuff doesn’t get done, they might be more likely to notice/appreciate what you do. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be a thing, but we don’t have an ideal world.

      1. frazzled*

        For me it worked the other way.

        My supervisor took over for me for a week and when I came back she was like “That is ALL you do all day?” and then I was swamped with so much extra work that it became too stressful to work there anymore.

    2. stk*

      I think this is part of it too. Even if it’s not “oh, stk isn’t here this week, it’s CHAOS!”, when I’m on leave my manager has to explicitly think about what I do that someone else will have to do during my absence. That’s going to have an impact.

    3. Menacia*

      Conversely, and this is what we discovered when a co-worker was on STD for 6 months, that you are not missed and nothing has changed in workload because you did not do anything anyway! :)

      1. Kelly O*

        And I know what it means, but I giggled when I read that as “my coworker had an STD for 6 months”.

    4. Kelly O*

      This is what happens to me every time I’m out of the office. I had to take a week recently to help deal with my mother-in-law and some family issues, and I actually got hugged when I came back into the office.

      Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I suppose.

      1. Camellia*

        Kelly O, hi! It seems like you’ve been away for a while, or have I just been not seeing your comments?

    5. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      This is what I was thinking as well. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone (or on vacation).

    6. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      Yeah, it’s supply and demand. If you decrease your supply (of working days) by taking vacation, you increase the demand for you, and then you get a raise ;).

  4. SL #2*

    See, as soon as I book all my fall work travel, I will be able to book my fall vacations. But even just the thought of that is making me more productive, because I’m trying really hard to get to a point where I can book the vacation and not the work travel!

  5. F.*

    Another take on the vacation angle could be that dysfunctional companies tend to both discourage the use of vacation time and not give raises. Functional companies both encourage employees to use vacation time and give raises, whether cost-of-living because the company can afford to or merit raises in order to keep high performers. Unfortunately for me, there seem to be a lot more DYSfunctional companies out there…

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      Good point. I was also thinking that perhaps more comfortable employees with greater job security are more likely to take vacation (because they feel comfortable enough in their jobs to do so) and also more likely to get raises (because whatever makes them in-demand enough for job security could also command a raise).

    2. Triceratops*

      Yes, the first story conflates correlation and causation. There are lots of underlying factors that could make the same people a) take more vacation days AND b) receive more raises without one having a direct effect on the other. The dysfunctional company is one, and also the likelihood that certain groups of people who may have been socialized to “prove themselves” by not taking as much vacation (so, people of color and women) are also groups that are at a disadvantage when it comes to promotions and raises.

  6. KR*

    I wonder if the vacation findings are related to the fact that people who have more vacation days may work where their employees value them more and give more raises…
    I barely take any vacations because I don’t get any paid vacation and my paid holidays are only half paid days. I would definitely be more productive if I had more time off.

    1. Chriama*

      Agreed. I’m wondering what sort of factors they controlled for. For example, employees who are well regarded may be given more vacation time and also raises. Does it mean vacation is the cause of their reputation? I’m skeptical.

    2. Purest Green*

      Yes. I’ve been led to believe that, generally, better employers reward good employees with both time off and raises – not to mention better employers are more likely to hire good employees to begin with. But if you don’t work for a “better” employer and/or don’t get a lot of time off, how does that factor in?

  7. Vizzini*

    If a worker only get 2 weeks per year, they would be fully using their vacation and yet fall into “10 or under” group. It would be interesting to see how the percentages are for those who only get 2 weeks (10 days) of vacation per year. Are stingy-with-vacation-time employers also stingy with raises?

    1. Alice*

      Just wrote something similar below and didn’t see your comment. I agree. I think that you are less likely to get a raise when you have that little of a vacation.

  8. Brooke*

    I like to give people a chance to miss me. I do a lot of heavy lifting that sometimes goes unnoticed; taking PTO helps make my contributions better understood!

    1. Clumsy Ninja*

      Totally agree! It’s frustrating to think that all the stuff that you do to make things flow smoothly go unnoticed – I like being gone at times so that people have a chance to see what I usually do for them.

  9. Jennifer*

    Hahahahahahah, normally I could take a lot if I wanted to, but we’re so short staffed this year they can’t afford to have me out because I am the only one left who knows how to do certain processes (except the manager, but of course she’s too busy).

    If you make it difficult for people to take vacation….especially if it only means you end up doing much more work because you missed a few days, it’s not worth it.

  10. Alice*

    The vacation thing doesn’t seem to be a well thought out study to me. A lot of people, including me, do not get more than 10 vacation days in general. Companies that are generous with leave tend to be generous with pay as well, so maybe that is the real reason.

    1. Karo*

      This. While I’m sure there are some places that give low vacation but high raises, or vice versa, high raises and high vacation days tend to go together.

      1. H.C.*

        Actually, nonprofits tend to fall in the low raise but high vacation category, usually the latter as a way of compensating for the former.

    2. neverjaunty*

      I’m really disappointed in this AAM post, which takes a second- or third-hand news report of a study at face value and assumes correlation is causation. Here’s the study:

      More importantly than ‘take more vacation, make more money!’ are some of the less chipper messages in the study – for example, “nearly two-thirds (65%) of employees reporting that they hear nothing, mixed messages, or discouraging messages about taking time off”.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Any time an article says “a study found that people who do X are more likely to have benefit Y, so you should do X and then you’ll get Y”, the Bad Reporting Sirens should be blaring like a foghorn that just dropped an anvil on its toe.

        2. Elsajeni*

          I don’t think the problem is HBR — they’re accurately reporting what Project: Time Off says about the study’s results. But I don’t think the conclusion “so you should take more vacation time if you want a raise!” is nearly as well supported by those results as Project: Time off is suggesting. For one thing, it’s not really clear what order the vacation-taking and the raise happened in — they ask if you received a raise or bonus in the last three years, and compare it to how many days of vacation you took… in 2015? Averaged over the last 3 years? I can’t tell from the report. So it sounds like this could capture people who got a raise in 2014 and then used more vacation days in 2015, which obviously doesn’t support the causative relationship they’re suggesting. And, of course, as other people have pointed out, even HAVING 11 or more vacation days to take tells you something about the type of job you have, and it’s not clear whether they limited this question only to people in that group.

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        Yes, correlation does not equal causation, and the media often irresponsible conflate them.

  11. Chaordic One*

    On the “Marketplace Weekend” podcast last weekend they were interviewing a woman who ran a nonprofit and talked about how hard it was for her, as a leader, to take care of herself and take vacations. She made the point that often times low-paid workers (like those at her nonprofit) really can’t afford self-care, or to take vacations.

    Looking back at my former toxic job, I really couldn’t afford to take a nice vacation anyplace, but I do wish I had taken time off for myself, maybe in the form of a “staycation” just to get away from the chaos and stress of the job.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      That’s a good point too. Some folks who make less money and can’t afford to go anywhere on vacation just won’t take vacation sometimes. I do staycations myself, I cannot travel atm for reasons unrelated to money, but I still use the time off to spend locally.

  12. Dread Pirate Roberts*

    I was going to click on the link and read the article but I will do it later…

  13. stevenz*

    There are soooo many “studies” that attempt to put a price on such things as lost productivity, traffic congestion, climate change, not eating breakfast, waiting in airport security lines, unmatched socks, watching cat videos, and on and on. They are made solely for the purpose of grabbing headlines. Add them all up and they probably triple the GDP of the country. They are mostly bogus and should be taken with, at most, a grain of salt. The $5.4 billion figure for the Olympics is one such silly estimate, and such estimates, at least as reported by the press, tend to be biased toward inflating the effect. If there is any reality to the $5.4 billion, or any cost at all, it should just be chalked up to the cost of doing business rather than some outrageous theft of corporate worth.

    I can do my own back-of-the-envelope calculation in about 15 minutes and come up with any number I want. Try it yourself. It’s really easy. So easy you’ll wonder why anyone takes these things seriously.

    (Not so sure about that vacation/pay raise one either, but at least that one deals with verifiable evidence.)

    1. neverjaunty*

      There are also studies that make accurate estimates of loss productivity, climate change, lost time, and so on. You can judge the value of those studies by examining their methodology and data. If they don’t offer those things, it’s correct to be suspicious. But “I can make stuff up on a napkin!” is not really a counterargument.

  14. Former Computer Professional*

    I have a Ph.D. in Procrastination. (I got it from the University of I Forget, I’ll Go Look It Up Later – Would You Like Some Coffee?)

    I (normally) have to edit seven files a week. Two of them are at least three times as big as the others. Getting through them can be daunting. I have to stop and take breaks, because otherwise I start missing glaring errors. It means that those two files can take up to ten times longer than the other files. But because I know it’s going to take a long time, I keep wanting to put off working on them.

    I don’t let myself touch the smaller (easier) files until I get the big ones done. I still manage to procrastinate – and I don’t even own a television!

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Procrastination is terrible. I’ve found the Pomodoro Method helpful in terms of staying on track, but then I just find myself procrastinating starting the timer, finding excuses to dive in juuuussst after A, B … Z, AA….

      I like Wait But Why’s take on it, but “Ok! Let’s dive into the dark woods!” self-talk is not doing it for me on one particular project I am currently behind on:

  15. Laura*

    I enjoy traveling, and make sure that I take all my vacation each year. I truly am a “Work to live, not live to work” person. I started my last job at the same time as another woman. She kept bragging about how she comes in two hours early and stays two hours late each day and never takes a vacation day. Finally, I told her that since I worked in internal audit previously not taking vacation time was a sign of fraud rather than diligence.

    1. Mabel*

      Speaking of fraud: I used to work at a bank, and the VPs (probably others, too, but that’s who I worked for) were required to take two weeks at a time so any potential fraud would have time to surface and be discovered. Also, since the crash in 1929, banks cannot be closed more than three days in a row, so some of the staff always had to come in the day after Thanksgiving.

  16. Mabel*

    I just took a week of vacation, and it was my first full week off in over 10 years (it was heavenly!). I never had the money to go anywhere, so I would take my PTO in smaller chunks. I have to say that taking a week or two all at once is SO MUCH BETTER (for me, anyway). Having the time off work made me feel like “I deserve to have a vacation.” I hadn’t realized that, because of how I had been handling my PTO in the past, I was starting to feel undeserving of a nice time off from work. I feel so much more positive about my worth in the working world. I don’t think I’ll be getting a raise because of it, but I do feel a lot more confident, and that could result in a new job with higher pay at some point (and that “some point” might be sooner that it otherwise would).

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