A Nation of Workaholics: More Than Half of the American Workforce Fails To Use Vacation Days

When was the last time you got away? While 78% of executives believe that vacations are necessary for preventing burnout, recent studies have shown that Americans are failing to heed their own advice when it comes to effective stress management. A recent Bankrate survey found that a whopping 52% of Americans who received paid vacation time in 2016 failed to use it all.

In fact, 30% of those employees with paid vacation time stated that they would have anywhere from seven to 10 days left over at the end of the year; only 15% said they would leave one to three days unused. Astoundingly, 8% stated they would finish out the year with 30 days or more of accrued, unused vacation time.

“This workaholic approach is deeply embedded in our country’s culture, but working more hours and sacrificing vacation days does not make you a better employee or help you climb the ladder any faster,” said Sarah Berger, a personal finance expert and Bankrate.com blogger. “Without taking time to recharge, employees can find themselves stressed, overworked and sick — all of which have a direct impact on their work performance.”

The strange thing is that employees know how beneficial vacations can be in terms of productivity. Wholly 75% of executives feel that taking a trip improves their personal job performance, and 68% believe that vacations improve their creativity. Still, 23% of employees choose not to take a vacation because they simply have too much work to do, and 4% abstain in fear of losing their jobs.

But it’s been shown repeatedly that taking a vacation can actually help to reduce missed work days and departure of employees. Employees who take time off to recharge generally require less healthcare and are less prone to work-related stress, both of which can lead to extra costs and loss of employees. Since an estimated $11 billion is lost every year due to employee turnover, it would be in everyone’s interest for workers to take that time off.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to employees, either. Even bosses are opting out of their holidays. Another recent study found that a staggering 70% of small business owners worked on Thanksgiving, even when they had planned to take the day off. Further, a Funding Circle survey found that 49% of small business owners planned to take less than three days off throughout the entire holiday season.

In many cases, the reluctance to take a vacation is fueled by a profound sense of responsibility. Around 19% of small business owners said they felt guilty taking time away.

However, there are certain subsets of workers who are more willing to take time off than others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 33 million American workers are aged 55 and above. This generation of baby boomers, specifically those between age 62 and 70, are the most likely to use up all of their allotted vacation days.

On the other end of the spectrum, young millennials aged 18 to 25 are least likely to use all of their vacation days; only 35% said they would max out their paid time off. While nearly one-third of millennials say this is due to the fact that they love their jobs, the sheer cost of taking a trip may also be a factor. More than 50% of surveyed millennials say the price of leisure travel is a substantial barrier for them. Even though vacation time is paid, these young employees simply can’t afford a getaway.

Despite everything we know about the benefits of taking a vacation, when it comes right down to it, most employees would rather take cash in lieu of taking a trip. The recent Bankrate survey showed that, when asked to choose between an extra week of vacation time and an extra week of pay, far more workers went for the cash.

Still, money can’t buy happiness — but perhaps it could go towards some long-overdue time off.

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