Americans Need to Stop Leaving Vacation Days on the Table

Some new stats from the U.S. Travel Association are pretty depressing

Americans Need to Stop Leaving Vacation Days on the Table
By Tanner Garrity / July 15, 2019 1:58 pm

The U.S. Travel Association, a national non-profit, recently released its annual State of American Vacation report on the habits of American travelers. There are a ton of fascinating takeaways from the study (for instance, people who take the time to plan vacations are in general happier people), but also some sobering remarks on the state of our country’s work-life balance.

Over half of American employees surveyed reported they had unused vacation days at the end of the year. Of those people, 61% said they feared looking replaceable, 56% said their workload was too heavy, and another 56% said no one could cover for them at work. The other responses included concern for pets, safety while traveling, cost, and children.

A case can be made for those last four reasons. A family with four kids and two dogs has bills to pay, and hopping around the States or the world could be seen as a risk. (Though, vacation can take many forms. More on this in a bit.) Regardless, it’s those first three concerns that don’t pass the smell test. Clearly, America’s national pastime of empowering workaholics who make non-workaholics feel bad for spending way too much money somewhere sunny for a week is alive and well.

In fact, the report also found that at companies with a “positive vacation culture,” 72% of employees are happy, and 77% use all of their vacation time. Contrast that to companies with a “discouraging or ambivalent vacation culture” where 42% of employees are happy, and 51% use all their vacation days. The U.S. Travel Association attributes the rise of the “workcation” in part to employees trying to reconcile vague or somewhat hostile vacation policies with a desire to get away from the office and see something new. Millennials in particular have expressed interest in the concept: 39% surveyed say they’d like to have one.

Whatever archaic psychology is fueling the MO of those discouraging vacation, it’s actually wrong and hurting the economy. When Americans forfeit vacation days, and they forfeited 212 million in 2017, they lose out on $62.2 billion in benefits. They’re basically donating time to their employers. This hurts their bank accounts, and by extension — job creation across the country. Meanwhile, taking a vacation doesn’t mean spending a personal fortune. It could be a week dedicated to catching back up on your fitness. It could be a week of seeing more of your kids. Or sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. It doesn’t really matter. The incorrect choice is to disregard these days entirely. If your employer gives you a hard time, make sure to ask for specifics on the vacation policy and have clarity on how much time you get off. They’re not allowed to make you feel bad for taking a break.

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