Americans waste record-setting 658 million vacation daysStaff writer ▼ | June 15, 2016
American workers took slightly more vacation in 2015, up to 16.2 days from 16.0 days the year before, according to new research from Project: Time Off.
New habits Connectivity has intensified attachment to work
These findings, from Project: Time Off's State of American Vacation 2016 report, provide the look at America's vacation habits to date from a GfK survey of 5,641 U.S. employees who earn time off and economic analysis conducted by Oxford Economics.
It is commonly assumed that economic trends are driving the decline, but the State of American Vacation found no correlation to unemployment rates or consumer confidence.
Rather, America's time off habits closely track technology innovation and adoption trends, suggesting that connectivity has intensified Americans' attachment to work and reduced their ability to break free of the office.
More than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015. This adds up to 658 million unused vacation days. It is the highest number Project: Time Off has ever reported, far exceeding the previous 429 million count.
The increase highlights the difference between American workers' intent and action.
Previous Project: Time Off surveys, conducted mid-year, asked about anticipated vacation usage. The latest survey, conducted in January 2016, asked respondents about their actual usage for 2015, providing a more accurate picture of America's vacation habits.
These unused days cost the U.S. economy $223 billion in total economic impact and 1.6 million jobs. There are significant costs to American workers as well. U.S. workers forfeited 222 million of the 658 million unused vacation days.
These days cannot be rolled over, paid out, or banked for any other benefit—they are purely lost. This forgone time results in $61.4 billion in forfeited benefits annually.
The reasons behind work martyrdom have lessened, even if only slightly, since 2014.
Workers cite returning to a mountain of work (37% in 2016 vs. 40% in 2014) as the greatest challenge, followed by no one else can do the job (35% vs. 30%) and cannot afford a vacation (33% vs. 30%). ■