Americans Leave Hundreds of Millions of Paid Vacation Days Unused

Vacation is one of those things we dream about, long for, and look forward to — and in fact, 37% of families say that vacations really do make them happy. And yet, according to a recent study, Americans are leaving millions of vacation days unused.

The report, conducted by travel industry trade group Project Time Off showed that while basically all managers — 90% — encouraged their employees to take paid time off, 68% of workers reported hearing “nothing, negative or mixed messages about taking vacation.”

Managers themselves tend to actually “pass on vacation in greater numbers than non-managers,” according to Katie Denis, the Project Time Off director. “‘Do as I say not as I do’ is a very powerful message,” Denis noted. “You leave people not knowing what to do.”

Other reasons for workers not taking their allotted paid days off has to do with stress and anxiety about being seen as replaceable, according to Denis.

As a result, unused vacation time actually cost employees a pretty penny more than just the resulting stress and health problems associated with not taking a vacation. The unused vacation time cost employers $272 billion in the last year alone, a full 21% increase since 2015.

It’s also been shown that employers don’t even lose too much productivity from providing vacation, and that companies are overall better off when their workers are happier and better rested as a result of taking time off.

“We see the productivity net out at about even,” Denis said. “Energy productivity, engagement, happiness — these affect your bottom line in ways that are difficult to measure.”

Plus, there are other benefits to Americans taking more time off. For instance, a previous Project Time Off study found that if every worker took their allotted vacations, they would generate an extra $223 billion in economic activity, and add an extra 1.6 million new jobs.

Some companies have already begun changing the status quo by leaps and bounds when it comes to handling vacation. Netflix’s unlimited vacation policy reportedly works well, according to Denis, because the CEO Reed Hastings is himself very vocal about the policy and takes six weeks every year.

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