Americans are taking less vacation time than ever

October 24, 2014 |

It’s inevitable that everyone needs a break at some point in their job. Vacation getaways are the essential way to take a much needed break from the daily stresses of deadlines and  duties, not to mention keep your sanity at times. However, recent studies are indicating that Americans are taking less vacation time than ever, a statistic that may appease your boss, but may indicate that employees aren’t taking advantage of the free time they deserve.

Record low numbers for US vacation days
In a report issued by the U.S. Travel Association, researchers from Oxford Economics have stated that American workers have forfeited an estimated $52.4 billion in time off work benefits during 2013, and the average employee is taking lesser time off from their job than ever before. There were an estimated 169 million days off not accounted for last year, which the researchers projected an average of $504 per employee was provided in free labor for U.S. companies.

All in all, Americans took an average of 16 days of vacation time in 2013, a number that has significantly declined from the 2000 number which was estimated at 20. While U.S. employees are only taking an average of 77 percent of their total vacation days, the economical impact that would take place if workers went back to averaging 20 days of time off would be massive. The U.S. Travel Association estimated that if today’s employees went back to taking that many vacation getaways, it would make a $284 billion impact on the U.S. economy, with days off work spiking 27 percent.

The researchers stressed how not taking advantage of all the time off you’re allotted to at work only means that you’re essentially doing your job for free.

“Americans are work martyrs,” the researchers said in a statement. “Tied to the office, they leave more and more paid time off (PTO) unused each year, forfeiting their earned benefits and, in essence, working for free.”

Why are Americans not taking time off?
While the statistics provided are truly interesting, the real question is what’s holding U.S. employees back from taking advantage of vacation days that are offered to them? Joe Robinson, a work-life productivity and engagement leader, spoke about how employees are more hesitant than ever to take time off work in this era of lays offs and recent recession.

“Workers are afraid to take their vacations in the layoff era,” Robinson said in an interview with CNN. “It might mark them as less ‘committed’ than coworkers. It’s futile. People who don’t take their vacations get laid off just like everyone else.”

Working hard and avoiding time off is definitely one of the unspoken attributes of American employees. According to a 2013 report by the Center For Economic and Policy Research, the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that does not legally require a single paid vacation day. The government gives employees days off for federal holidays, but no such law exists. When you compare this to other countries, such as many in Europe that require at least 20 days vacation, it’s easy to see how avoiding time off becomes part of the routine for U.S. workers.

But for stressed out employees who continue to put their time and effort into their profession, it’s essential to remember that taking a break may not be legally required by your country, but it is entitled to you at your job. So make sure to use up those days off to take the vacation getaways of your dreams and remember that your life doesn’t have to revolve around your job.