According to a study published by Marketwatch in 2015, most American citizens in the work force only use about 51 percent of their eligible paid vacation and paid time off.
Additionally, the study also states that 61 percent of Americans work while they’re on vacation, despite complaints from family members; one-in-four report being contacted by a colleague about a work-related matter while taking time off; and one-in-five have been contacted by their boss.
When you think about the fact that our friends across the pond who work in the European Union are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days a year (and 25 or even 30 days a year in some European countries), it really makes you start to wonder why Americans are so uniquely dedicated to the All Work, No Play mentality. Is skipping vacation time really doing us any good?
It’s difficult to pin point one exact reason as to why Americans disregard the importance of taking a well-deserved vacation. The Marketwatch study offers several different explanations from participants in the study, including being unable to afford taking a vacation, being afraid of returning to a ridiculous amount of work and concern that there is no one else in the company capable of doing their job while they’re traveling.
However, if you ask me, the number one reason behind Americans not taking advantage of paid time off is the mentality of American society. The idea behind the American Dream is that anything is possible and anyone can achieve prosperity and success as long as you work hard enough.
Unfortunately, over the years it seems as though this once-attainable dream has morphed into an excuse to overwork employees and convince them that working overtime being tied to your desk is mandatory just to get by. The recession is also likely to blame, with people being terrified of losing their job in such a competitive job market.
However, it’s time that all working Americans shake off these notions that vacation is a bad thing. As the Huffington Post recently discussed, there are immense health benefits to taking a vacation, including reduced stress, helping your heart stay healthy, and improved mental health and relationships.
Ultimately, both American employees and employers need to change this misconception that those who take all of their paid time off are lazy and not as committed as those who work 365 days a year. In fact, most studies show that taking a break is actually beneficial to productivity, and most employees who return to work after a vacation come back refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to dive back into work.
I’ve written before for our blog about how different Americans and Europeans view the importance of their careers, and I think it’s OK that our society is generally more ambitious and prioritize working significantly more than our European counterparts.
However, all working Americans need to shake off this idea that vacations are bad; otherwise, we will inevitably end up with a burnt out workforce who slaves away from 9 to 5 instead of a work force producing inspired and quality work. Paid vacation is an amazing perk that we should all be taking advantage of. Time to plan your next adventure.