I literally winced submitting my PTO request. It is mid-November and have a ridiculous number of vacation days left to take before year’s end.

I am an idiot.

One might think that oodles of PTO would be a welcome bit of news, but I’m here to tell you that in my world, it is definitely not. All of my adult life (since having kids, anyway) I’ve hoarded my personal time off just in case something happened to the kiddos. Kids have a way of breaking bones, breeding germs and basically tossing your well laid plans aside. When November hits, I breathe a sign of relief and take a look at what I have to work with.

And then I have a panic attack.

My husband, on the other hand, has absolutely no qualms about taking his allotted time off. He is really good about shutting it off at night and taking his leave with a clear conscience. He lectures me often about my inability to relax and really pushes me to take time off.

But I am a worrier. (Workload, missing out, being replaced, you name it – I worry about it.) It is hard for me to relax and shut work off. (Work life balance, anyone?) 

So I did a little research into the issue. (You know, just to confirm that I’m not the only freak out there.) 


According to a recent report from the U.S. Travel Association, I am most definitely not alone.  In fact, they found that a full 40 percent of American workers leave paid vacation days unused each year even though it is part of their compensation.

“Americans suffer from a work martyr complex,” said Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “In part, it’s because ‘busyness’ is something we wear as a badge of honor. But it’s also because we’re emerging from a tough economy and many feel less secure in their jobs. Unfortunately, workers do not seem to realize that forfeiting their vacation time comes at the expense of their overall health, well-being and relationships.”

OUCH. (I hate it when my husband is right. Also, “work martyr complex?” HARSH.) 

So, if you are one of the many folks (like me) who feel guilty about taking time to yourself, take heart in knowing that you will ultimately benefit both yourself and your company by hitting the road. In fact, I found a study which reports that for every additional 10 hours of vacation an employee takes, his or her performance ratings go up by 8 percent — nearly 1 percent per day of vacation. (Enormous productivity boost, anyone?) Not only that but employees who take regular vacations are much less likely to leave the company. They also report improved concentration and greater work-life satisfaction.

Well, when you put it THAT way, I am inclined to ditch being a martyr. How about you?