Want a Raise? Take a Vacation.

100 dollar bill buried in the sand

Not taking a vacation is one of the hallmarks of the hyper-driven modern employee. Vacations are for the weak. Vacations are for suckers. So what if not taking a vacation correlates to things like higher heart attack rates and increased depression? You’ll get ahead much faster if you never take time off, and you can use all your extra money for the best medical and mental health care, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that not only are vacations mission critical for you to feel better. A study recounted over at the Harvard Business Review found that vacations also actually mission critical for you to get ahead, at least paycheck-wise.

First things first. Let’s jump back a bit and talk about vacation generally. No one is taking enough vacation. It doesn’t matter what field in which people are employed. When offered paid time off, people just don’t take all of it. American workers are taking even less vacation than they took 20 or even 10 years ago, and that number shows no signs of trending back upwards.

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People—including the folks over at HBR initially—tended to assume that the reason people do not take enough vacation of late was that circa 2008, everyone was seized with economic insecurity and a scarcity of jobs meant that people believed they should always be at work and somehow that mindset never quite disappeared.

During 1982 and 2010, the two years since 1981 with the highest unemployment, people still used an average of 20.9 days of vacation. In 2015 the unemployment rate was 5.3% (it was 9.7% in 1982), and yet 2015 had one of the lowest averages of time off taken in the past 30 years: 16.2 days.

So, for whatever reason, even in times of relative prosperity and job security, people still think they shouldn’t take time off. But they really should, particularly if they want to earn more money. No, really.

People who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time. People who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus.

You’re reading that right. Take 11 or more vacation days a year (presuming, obviously, that your job offers that many vacation days per year) and you are much more likely to get a raise.

Of course, the problem with a study like this is no one knows why this would be the case. Is it that you come back refreshed from vacation? Is it that your boss realizes that you are competent enough to plan responsibly for time away and efficiently catch up upon your return? Who can say? But why would you leave all that vacation time—and a potential raise—on the table? Better safe than sorry.

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  • Paul Spitz

    I’m guessing that many of the readers of this website are solo practitioners or partners at a small firm (3 lawyers or under). So for solos, there is no such thing as paid vacation. If we aren’t working, we aren’t making money and nobody else is making money for us. There’s nobody to give me a raise. I wish it were otherwise, because I’m about to leave for a two week vacation.