How Employees Use Vacation Time
employee vacation time

How Employees Use Vacation Time

Vacation time is a treasured benefit by employees: it’s the number 2 ranked benefit contributing to employee satisfaction as ranked on Glassdoor, just after health insurance (Glassdoor Economic Research, Which Benefits Matter Most?, June 2016). However, while employees say they value vacation, many – particularly Millennials – do not take their full allotment.  

The U.S. Vacation Deficit

  • A 2016 survey found that 41 percent of Americans said they didn’t take a single vacation day during 2015, 17 percent said they took fewer than five vacation days that year (Skift, No Vacation Nation, January 2016).
  • Another study found that 658 million days went unused in 2015. Of those, 222 million days were lost – days that cannot be rolled over, paid out, or banked for any other benefit (Project Time Off, State of the American Vacation, 2016).
  • Millennials are the generation most likely to forfeit time off, even though they earn the least amount of vacation days.
    • 24 percent of Millennials either forfeited days or do not even know if they forfeited days last year, compared to just 19 percent of Generation X and 17 percent of Boomers (Project Time Off, State of the American Vacation, 2016).

Related: How to Get Employees to Actually Take Vacation

The Problem of Unused Vacation Time

Unused vacation days compound stress, taking a toll on workers’ well being and the well-being of their families. In addition, unused vacation time can reduce productivity and innovation at work, and draw spending away from tourism, a vital part of the economy.

  • The vast majority (84%) of managers agree that when employees take time off, they return to work with improved focus and creativity (Project Time Off, State of the American Vacation, 2016).
  • If Americans had used all of the vacation time they earned in 2015, it would have contributed $223 billion in spending for the U.S. economy (Project Time Off, State of the American Vacation, 2016).

Related: eBook: Effectively Managing Employee Paid Time Off

A Culture of Vacation Deprivation

Work martyrdom and the always-on nature of the Internet-driven work environment may be contributing to America’s vacation deficit. Employees who become accustomed to work requests via smartphone in off hours may feel it’s impossible to turn off for multiple weekdays at a time. This work martyr syndrome can lead to a culture of vacation shaming, and contribute to workers’ perceived inability to fully unplug from work during vacation.

  • Nearly half (47 percent) of workers surveyed have felt shame at work for taking their well-deserved vacation, and 47 percent have felt the need to justify taking their vacation days (Alamo Rent-A-Car, Vacation Shaming in the Workplace, March 2016).
  • Employed Millennials feel the most shame – 59 percent reported feeling a sense of shame for taking or planning a vacation compared to those 35 or older (41 percent) (Alamo Rent-A-Car, Vacation Shaming in the Workplace, March 2016).
  • Only 44 percent of workers reported that they never worked on vacation, down from 48 percent the year prior (Alamo Rent-A-Car, Vacation Shaming in the Workplace, March 2016).

Creating a vacation-friendly culture is important for employees’ well-being, since multiple studies have linked the practice of taking vacations to good health (Huffington Post, Health Benefits of Taking a Vacation, March 2016). Healthy employees are more likely to be productive and happy employees.

Download our new eBook on Effectively Managing Employee Paid Time Off about how to develop paid-leave offerings and vacation policy considerations – and create a PTO-friendly culture that will ensure your employees don’t suffer stress-related burnout or vacation shaming.