As I attend and speak at leadership conferences all over the country, an ongoing topic of interest is the subject of work-life balance, or “work-life integration,” or “work-life harmony.” Whatever we choose to call it, it’s apparently in short supply in the current U.S. corporate climate.
The pace of life seems to only accelerate, work gets harder and more demanding, and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon. Everyone needs to recalibrate how they approach work-life issues, and the smartest companies will think about their responses in advance and be prepared with effective solutions.
There are many articles with tips about how to achieve work-life balance, but my suggestion is to simply take time off to decompress. It is necessary and critical to happiness and productivity. Fortunately, most U.S. workers do have paid time off, but unfortunately, we don’t always use it.
According to a 2017 study by the U.S. Travel Association, a little more than half of full-time workers didn’t take all the paid vacation days they earned, leaving more than 700 million vacation days on the table. That means people are essentially working for free almost one week every year. In 2014, a study by Oxford Economics found that U.S. workers were using only 77 percent of their paid time off, which equated to about 169 million days forfeited, amounting to $52.4 billion in lost benefits, a 40-year high at that time.
In my work advancing women and engaging men, I encourage workers to use their full benefits, like parental leave and flexible work schedules, as well as insist on pay equity. Obviously, I would never advocate working for free or leaving benefits like paid time off on the table, which can take a toll on personal health and productivity.