Last year over half (55%) of U.S. workers didn’t take all of their vacation time, according to a new study by Project Time Off, a travel industry initiative.
It’s not just the random day or two of vacation time that we lose either – on average, Americans didn’t use nearly six of their paid days off. That amounts to 658 million unused vacation days across the nation, and – because some employers don’t roll over or pay out for unused vacation time – $61.4 billion in benefits workers earned but didn’t receive. It is the highest number Project: Time Off has ever reported, far exceeding the previous 429 million count.
Why are we compelled to work so hard? For some, the issue is financial. 33% of workers told Project Time Off they didn’t take all their time off last year because they couldn’t afford a vacation.
But the majority of people who responded to the study don’t lack the funds for a holiday. Some of us (35%) don’t do downtime because we believe that no one else in the entire known universe (or at least the part occupied by our office) is capable of doing our jobs.
And many of us (37%) refuse to go on vacation because we don’t want to deal with catching-up on undone work when we return from holiday.
Others are scared that vacation time will lead to the unemployment line. A full 80% of those surveyed said that their bosses were ok with short absences, but would be upset if employees actually used all of their vacation hours.
But check this out: employees who take 10 or less days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more.
Work-Life Balance? Nope
Even if you are fully committed to taking off, your holiday plays may fall victim to “vacation shaming.” The 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey reported that 59% of Millennials said that their co-workers made them feel bad about taking a vacation.
And 42% of all workers polled said that they are convinced that their coworkers sincerely believe that using all of your vacation days is a bad thing.
Even employees who do take time off tend to work while they are on “vacation.” We answer a few emails, give feedback on a project’s progress, hop on a conference call … and the next thing you know we’re at work even if we aren’t in our cubicles.
Get Over Vacation Guilt
There are many health and productivity benefits associated with downtime. We aren’t at our best without a break to recharge, recalibrate and feel replenished.
The Framingham Heart Study–the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease– revealed that men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who did not take time off. And women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.
HealthNet cites a study conducted by Marshfield Clinic which determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. A similar study by the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center also found that vacations relieve depression and improve general wellness – even lowering people’s blood pressure in some cases.
The amount of time taken also shows a clear correlation to happiness at home. The more vacation days used, the lower the stress.
If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the economy. If we all took the paid vacation time that’s coming to us and did something fun with it – we could potentially add 1.6 million more jobs and inject $223 billion to the U.S. economy. Even using just one more day would add $34 billion in spending to our economy.
Plan, Plan, Plan
What’s the best way to ensure you use your vacation time? Plan it out way in advance.
Over half (51%) of those who plan took all of their vacation time, where just 39 percent of non-planners did. Planners are also much more likely to take a full week of vacation time or more at a time – 69% of planners took off for at least a week, compared to only 46% of non-planners.
So break out the digital calendar or paper planner and start mapping out your next holiday. Or forget about the statistics and just go someplace wonderful ASAP.
Vacations make you healthier and happier, just like a healthy smile does. if you’ve been putting off getting regular dental checkups due to budget issues, dental savings plans provide savings of 10%-60% on a wide variety of preventive and restorative dental care at thousands of dental practices nationwide.
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com, or by calling 1-800-238-5163