Women and the Power of Personal Time Off

vacation for women

My name is Anthony Calderon, GW4W member, Chief Vacation Officer for SuiteBreak.com and father of two wonderful daughters – one in university and the other in elementary school. Both are bright, fun-loving and driven. One is theatrical and the other athletic, and I’m thankful everyday that both have the confidence to be whomever they choose. However, I can’t tell them from experience what they’ll encounter, the challenges they must overcome or the scrutiny they’ll face as women in the workplace. I’m just a guy. And while gender parity has come a long way in the past decades, the plethora of data documenting the abysmal representation of women in executive roles shows there’s still a lot of work ahead of us.  

Women consistently experience more stress than their male counterparts.

As if climbing to the top of one’s profession wasn’t bad enough, in today’s supercharged workplaces, executive and professional women consistently experience more stress, anxiety, and psychological distress than their male counterparts. Not only do they contend for equal pay, women generally have more domestic responsibilities – creating less free time to truly rest, relax and recharge. Although much has been made of the different ways men and women respond to stress (“fight or flight” vs. “tend and befriend”), there are also substantial discrepancies in how stress takes a greater toll on a woman’s physical and mental health.

According to a 2012 study of over 22,000 women in the workplace, women under high amounts of stress were 40 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular event (a heart attack or stroke) than women who reported low levels of job-related stress. While there is no one pill, single activity or cosmic event that will eliminate stress, how we balance work, family and personal time will have a significant impact on our health, productivity and overall career success.  

Personal time off can positively impact relationships, productivity and personal wellness.  

In 2018, SuiteBreak.com partnered with Global Women 4 Wellbeing in a collaborative effort to help women, and all employees, understand the importance of personal time off and how something as simple as an annual vacation can positively impact relationships, productivity and personal wellness.  

The misuse of personal time off is no small issue and has become a growing part of the American Vacation Culture (AVC). Research by Oxford Economics shows that Americans took 20.3 days of vacation in 2000, but only 16.2 days of vacation in 2015. That’s a loss of nearly one week – a week that should have been spent with family, on a solo adventure or a romantic getaway. When it comes to vacations, women are more likely than men – 58% vs. 42% – to say vacation time is “extremely” important. Yet the numbers are reversed when it comes to actually taking a vacation.

Negative perceptions regarding time off thrive.

A report by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off states:

High stress, guilt, and workload concerns may be keeping women from using their time off. Women report experiencing more stress than men at home (48% to 40%) and at work (74% to 67%). They are also more likely to say that guilt (25% to 20%) and the mountain of work they would return to (46% to 40%) hold them back from taking time off. Women also worry more than men about vacation making them seem less committed to their job (28% to 25%).

Lack of communication from managers has created a vacuum, where negative perceptions regarding time off thrive. While employers agree that vacation improves health and well-being (82%), boosts morale (82%), and alleviates burnout (81%), they fail to express that outlook explicitly. Two-thirds of employees surveyed said their “company culture is ambivalent, discouraging, or sends mixed messages about time off,” a share that’s virtually unchanged since 2014.

As a society, we’re diligent care-takers of our cars, homes and electronics – just imagine the actions we’d take if our phone wouldn’t hold a charge. Many women put career and caretaking responsibilities ahead of their own personal health and wellbeing. And yet, when our minds are distracted and our bodies tired, we risk burnout and illness instead of taking the steps necessary to recharge our batteries, reset our mental state and truly be the best version of ourselves.  

Being a healthy female leader means taking time off to re-center and re-charge.

All the research points in the same direction. Those who don’t take time off are sicker, less productive, stressed, and more anxious and depressed – which affects your work as well.  Being a healthy female leader means taking time off to re-charge. If you are visibly and truly taking time away from work, this can have a very positive impact on you and your team.  It can also help you move your work culture towards one that truly supports employee vacations. Requiring workers to take time off, creating policies to reduce vacation shaming and including vacation planning as a part of performance reviews are not only important to the bottom line, but to our quality of life.  It helps female leaders lead well and helps create a work culture where employees are more engaged.

If you are a GW4W member, be sure to take advantage of this important member benefit.  Make sure you are taking time to support your own health and wellbeing.

Anthony Calderon is Chief Vacationer for SuiteBreak.com, the corporate wellness division of Travel to Better Health. SuiteBreak is a full-service travel, vacation and experiential booking portal, helping companies communicate the importance of personal time off through an engaging wellness-based incentive program.  We appreciate Anthony and his company’s ongoing support of the GW4W mission. www.SuiteBreak.com.

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