Report: U.S. workers squandering 705 million vacation days per year

Employees are taking more time off—and employers are encouraging them to do so—but many in the workforce are still giving away nearly $600 worth of work time annually.

Time off is meant to be a blissful, blessed respite from job-related stress, anxiety and annoyance.

More than half of U.S. workers, however, still can’t seem to tear themselves away from their jobs. According to Project: Time Off’s 2018 State of American Vacation report, 52 percent of American employees left some vacation time unused in 2017, even though “the data shows an unmistakably strong correlation between travel and happiness.”


Overall, the U.S. workforce neglected to cash in about 705 million vacation days last year, but there’s been a slow uptick of taking more time off for three years in a row. In 2014—the “lowest point of America’s vacation use”—workers took an average of just 16 days off per year. Project: Time Off’s 2018 report claims that number is now 17.2 days per employee.

State of American Vacation 2018 3

How your company views and encourages (or discourages) vacation time can have a tremendous impact on culture, efficiency and profitability. Happy employees tend to be more productive, engaged and likely to stick around, so it pays to keep your people refreshed, relaxed and well-rested. Doing so, of course, is easier said than done.

The report found that the habits and worries of “work martyrs” are tough to break. According to Project: Time Off:

Work-related challenges had the most influence on Americans’ ability to vacation. Employees who were concerned that they would appear less dedicated or even replaceable if they took a vacation were dramatically less likely to use all their vacation time (61 percent leave time unused, compared to 52 percent overall). Those who felt their workload was too heavy to get away were also more likely than average to have unused vacation time (57 percent to 52 percent), as were employees who felt there was a lack of coverage or that no one else could do their job (56 percent to 52 percent).

Beyond that, many of those who do take time for some R&R stay digitally tethered to their workplace demands.

You can’t force people to take a vacation, but leaders and communicators can create a culture that aggressively promotes the virtues of respites from the job. As the report puts it: “Alleviating the barriers in the workplace rests on creating a positive vacation culture.”

The report asserts that this vacation issue is about much more than cash, success and prosperity. It states:

The ripple effects of America’s travel deficit are about far more than unrealized days and dollars. It’s about missing out on the experiences, moments, and memories that define us.

Read the rest of Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2018 study here.

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