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For many Americans, working without vacation time has become routine. But even when employees have paid for their time off, they often find it difficult to pull the trigger and get away from work. Why the blame?
A decision not to use vacation days can be one that an employee deeply regrets. Depending on their career, American workers often do not receive compensation for unused PTO days when they change jobs. Instead of using up the paid time off that was granted to them as a hiring benefit, employees often have to give up those unused days without showing anything.
In 2018, Americans reportedly left 768 million days of paid vacation time unused, with 55% percent of Americans not using all of their paid vacation time, according to the American travel association.
Related: A Work-Life Balance Will Help You Retain Employees
The economic costs of not taking holidays
There are also economic costs for people who do not take their vacation. If employees don’t use their vacation days to travel, for example, that’s money that isn’t spent on the economy (hotels, restaurants, entertainment, etc.). Instead of spending money to drive economic growth elsewhere (or in their communities), employees who don’t use their vacation time essentially give that money back to their employers in the form of unused vacation time.
Lack of vacation time can lead to serious health risks
Taking a vacation isn’t just a break from work – it’s an opportunity for employees to invest in their well-being. The health benefits of taking time for self-care, personal and family vacations or simply a chance to step out of the daily grind to refresh the body and mind cannot be overlooked.
Some of the health side effects of not taking a vacation can be surprising. Working too hard without a vacation can lead to sleep deprivation – a common cause of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, decreased immunity and more. Most disturbingly, overwork can lead to stroke, according to a 2015 study.
Related: 3 Ways Employee Vacations Increase a Company’s Productivity
An employee’s unwillingness to take a holiday starts young
So why don’t people take their vacation days from work? Business pressure often leads employees to believe that taking time away from work will show their employers that they are replaceable. Guilt seems to play a part in this as well, with an overwhelming societal perception that not coming to the office means someone is lazy or not working as hard as they could be. From a personal perspective, there is also the fear that an opportunity will be missed if one is out of the office (or not working remotely).
Some of this stems from societal pressures that start very young in the United States – many kids went to school with the goal of earning a perfect attendance prize, and that mindset has gone with them into the workplace.
Younger generations seem to feel the burden the most. According to an report published earlier this yearMillennials, and Gen Z were the least likely groups to use vacation time, with this cohort appearing to be much more vacation-poor than those 50 and older. Furthermore, women are more likely to burn out at work and have fewer holidays than their male counterparts.
Ironically, Americans’ obsession with work and lack of vacations comes at a time when employees are experiencing the possibility of greater freedom by working remotely. However, U.S. workers report that this shift to remote work has made it more difficult to pull the plug on their careers and really quit their jobs. So the cycle continues.
The next time you’re thinking about getting away from the office and taking that well-deserved vacation, do it. It will benefit your health, your community, the economy and your family.
Janice has been with businesskinda for 5 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesskinda team, Janice seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.