America has a new nickname- The No Vacation Nation. More than half of all working Americans don’t use all of their paid vacation days, according to an annual report from the U.S. Travel Association. One of the reasons may be because of the low amount of paid vacation time mandated by federal law compared to that of other countries. For example, the European Union requires member countries to give workers at least 20 working days of paid vacation. Many other countries go well above that number. France requires at least 30 paid workdays off, not including paid holidays, while the U.K. mandates 28, followed by Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Spain and Sweden at 25.
Worries About Work For many Americans, working without vacation time has become routine. Last year, Americans left a reported 768 million days of paid vacation days unused, with 55% percent of Americans failing to use all of their paid vacation time, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Even when workers have paid time off, they often find it difficult to step away from work. Employees said that worries about work were the biggest factor holding them back from taking time off. Even when they do take time off, many find it hard to disconnect from their responsibilities in the office, continuing to check emails or take calls while on vacation.
Economic Results There's an economic cost to people not taking their vacation time, too. When workers don't use their vacation days to take a trip, for example, that's money that's not being spent in the economy (hotels, restaurants, entertainment, etc.). Instead of spending money to stimulate economic growth elsewhere (or in their community), workers who do not use their vacation time are basically handing that money back to their employers in the form of unused leave time.
Health Risks Taking a vacation isn't just a break from work- it's a chance for workers to invest in their well-being. The health benefits of taking time for personal and family vacations or the benefits of stepping away from the daily routine and the stress of work shouldn't be overlooked. Some of the health side effects of not taking a vacation are surprising. Studies have shown that not taking a break from work can lead to sleep deprivation- a common cause of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, strokes, and more.
Pressures from Society
Corporate pressure often makes workers believe that taking time away from their job will show their employers that they're replaceable. Guilt also seems to play a role as well, with a perception that not coming into the office means someone is lazy or not working as hard as they could be. Some say there's also the fear that some kind of opportunity could be missed out on if you are not at the office (or working remotely). Younger generations seem to be having these feelings the most. According to a report published earlier this year, Millennials and Gen Zers were the least likely groups to use vacation time, compared to workers over 50. Women are also more burned out on work and vacation-deprived than their male coworkers.
Ironically, Americans' obsession with work and lack of vacations comes at a time when workers are experiencing more freedom by working remotely. However, U.S. workers report that this shift to remote work has made it harder to unplug and truly step away from their job. The next time you're thinking of that hard-earned vacation, do it. It will benefit your health, your community, the economy, and your family.