Give It a Rest: Why You Need to Take Paid Time Off and Sick Days

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My fellow communicators, I implore you to make it your top priority in 2020 that you will take the time away from work that you have earned. Doing so is within our control, and it’s something we desperately need if we are to continue advancing the PR profession and professional. 

According to the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of Americans (55 percent) are still not using all of their paid time off. In 2018, American workers failed to use 768 million days of paid time off — a 9 percent increase from 2017, according to the association’s research.

Looking specifically at the PR profession, I’m working in conjunction with Elizabeth Candello, Ph.D., integrated strategic communication professor, Washington State University Vancouver, on a study of health and wellness in our profession. 

One area of interest is how many people in our profession take all of their paid time off and sick time. In our research, only 20 percent of survey respondents said they had taken all of their paid time off and sick time. 

Several factors may be contributing to PR professionals not taking the time off we have earned:

  • We’re too busy to make ourselves and our well-being a priority. 
  • We forget to take time off from work.
  • We’re afraid of how it will look to our colleagues if we take time off. 
  • We’re afraid of what our bosses might think. 
  • We don’t trust our teams enough to leave them on their own. 
  • Our manager won’t approve the time off. 
  • Our clients won’t understand and will expect us to be available 24/7.
  • We think that mental health days don’t count. 

I witnessed these perceptions a lot throughout my career. Colleagues who are overworked and not prioritizing themselves don’t take time off. When the end of the year arrives, they realize they still have lots of unused vacation time, but they cannot take it. 

Not taking our deserved time off is detrimental to our physical and psychological health, both of which are essential to help us reduce stress and thrive in our profession.

How can we solve this problem of PR professionals not protecting their health by taking the necessary breaks from work they have earned? It won’t happen overnight, but these three ideas are within our control today:

1. Shift our mindset. We have to realize that when it comes to vacations, holidays, personal days, sick days and similar kinds of days off, we are being paid not to work. We have earned this time off along with our salary, health insurance and other job benefits. It’s part of our total compensation.

2. Schedule paid time off for the next 12 months now. I used to schedule my time off a year in advance when I worked in the PR-agency world. It might seem a little strange, but this approach will help you later by ensuring you take vacations. Of course, unexpected things may come up that require you to reschedule your time off, but I’ve found it’s the exception, not the norm. 

3. Realize that taking sick days for mental health counts. We need to change the way that we think about sick days. No longer should they only be for physical health. We also need time to rest our brains, not just our bodies. 

Please make your health and wellness a priority for the new year. To thrive in our profession, we must all be mentally and physically strong. It starts with being proactive and prescriptive about our time off. Plan yours now, before the year runs away. 

Stay tuned for more data and insights from our public relations health and wellness study. 

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2020!

photo credit: bernhard lang 

Return to Current Issue PR in the New Year | January 2020
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