More than half of US employees don't use all their vacation time, partly due to remote work
Fear also plays a partBy Rob Thubron 30 comments
In brief: Having a job that offers plenty of paid vacation days might be a great perk, but it's not much good when people don't, or feel that they can't, take them all off. According to a new survey, over half of US workers don't use all the time they're allowed.
The Pew Research Center's data (via Bloomberg) shows that only 48% of workers in the United States say they use up all their allocated vacation days. It might seem strange that someone would refuse to take paid time off that they're owed, but many say they worry about falling behind at work or feel bad about leaving an excessive workload with co-workers. Then there are those who feel they simply don't need the time off - people who really love their jobs, presumably.
Another reason is the all-too-familiar fear (and occasionally a justified one) that using up all of one's vacation time could mean losing out on a promotion. Many also believe that if a company is making layoffs, which has become a familiar sight in the tech world these days, bosses are more likely to retain staff who take fewer vacation days.
Elsewhere, 12% of those surveyed don't use up all their vacation days because their boss discourages time off.
The results make for sad reading at a time when many employees are still suffering from the burnout that started during the pandemic. The shaky global economy and the threat to jobs are also giving workers extra stress, meaning taking vacation breaks is more important than ever right now.
Ironically, working from home has also led to people taking fewer vacation days. Common reasons why employees used to take days off work, such as visiting a doctor, can now be done remotely or by leaving the home office for a short while.
"US employees have been conditioned to believe if you aren't at work, you are lazy or at risk of being replaced," said Christy Pruitt-Haynes, global head of talent and performance at workplace consultant firm NeuroLeadership Institute. "We also have been taught that to get more you have to work more, and since we all want more, we tend to prioritize active work over other things in our life."
The problem is less severe in Europe, where workers usually get more than the 15 - 20 average paid days off that US employees receive - and feel less guilty about using them.
Ultimately, the only way to guarantee US workers use at least some vacation time might be for companies to require that employees take a minimum number of days off.
Elsewhere in the survey of more than 5,900 US workers, only 51% of participants said they were satisfied with their job overall. Older workers offer the most positive assessments of their job, and about four-in-ten workers (39%) say their job or career is extremely or very important to their overall identity. And despite so many people not using their full allocation, most workers place a high priority on paid time off.