Employees are taking more vacation time, but they're still leaving days on the table
- For employers that want workers to use their vacation time, there's some good news: employees did just that in 2017. U.S. workers took an average of 17.2 vacation days last year, or almost a half a day more (.4) than in 2016, according to research from Project: Time Off. The number represents the highest level of vacation use since 2010, when the average was 17.5 days, according to the State of American Vacation 2018.
- But on the flip side of what the organization calls the start of a possible cultural shift, most Americans are still leaving vacation time "on the table." About 52% of employees left some vacation time unused in 2017, and 24% have avoided taking a vacation at all in more than a year. Although respondents in the study said that top barriers to taking vacation are cost, children and pets, work-related issues have the greatest impact on their ability to take vacation. Most respondents didn't use vacation because they feared looking less dedicated to their jobs, felt their workload was too heavy or felt no one else could do their work.
- But time off has its benefits, especially when that time is used to travel: among frequent travelers in the study, more than half (52%) said they received a promotion, compared to those who don't use their vacation days to travel (44%). Frequent travelers also report a greater likelihood of getting a raise, bonus or both, compared to those who don't travel.
Vacations can help employees unwind, enjoy time away from work and return rested, less stressed out and more productive — and based on the research from Project: Time Out's, more employers are beginning to realize these benefits. Employees in organizations that encourage vacations report being happier with their jobs and inclined to use more of their vacation time than other employees.
A 2017 CareerBuilder study showed that workers were stressed because they weren't taking vacations, or were plugged into the office while they supposed to be off. Feelings of guilt about being away from the office for an extended time stem from the signals workers receive from within their organizations. Workplaces that value employees' well-being should instill in their culture that time off is a positive benefit, rather a career-threatening one, various studies have said.
Absenteeism is often the cost of lost or unused vacation time. According to a Workforce Institute report, absenteeism costs employers $3,600 per hourly worker and $2,650 per salaried worker each year. Some employment experts advocate making vacation time mandatory to curb absenteeism, but others warn that employees should feel able to take just what they need, as enforced time off may bring its own stressors. Overall, employers that make time off a priority for workers may see long-term retention and engagement benefits.
- Project: Time Off Study: American Vacation Usage at Highest Point in Seven Years