If you don’t take all the vacation time you’re allotted, you’re not alone.
If you work while you’re on vacation, you’re like a lot of other people in the workforce.
If you’re stressed when you return to the office, there are a number of reasons for that.
There seems to be no question that the United States has an unhealthy “vacation culture.”
It ranges from how much time off we’re given, to how much vacation we actually take, to how we act while we are away from our jobs.
Americans simply don’t take enough vacation time, and when we do, we don’t take full advantage of it.
And that’s too bad.
Experts say there are a number of health benefits to enjoying a vacation… for both the employee and the employer.
“It gives you a chance to relax and recharge and clear your head,” said Alison Sullivan, a career trend expert at the website Glassdoor. “Vacations reduce stress that can build up when you are working, working, working.”
“People do better at work if they take time off, rest, refresh and get away from the daily grind,” added Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of the book “Dying for a Paycheck.”
“If they don’t take vacations, employees are less productive, less creative, and think less outside the box,” noted Ken Yeager, PhD, director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
That stress can produce some serious consequences.
A 1992 study that tracked workers for 20 years concluded that men who didn’t take vacations were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack. For women, it was a 50 percent greater risk.
“Stress, we know, is bad for our health,” says Pfeffer.
So, with all this evidence, why don’t we leap at the chance to go on vacation?
Our vacation culture
The lack of vacation time is not only part of America’s business culture.
It’s also part of our laws.
The United Kingdom mandates that companies provide at least 28 days of vacation to their employees, according to the official UK government website.
Other countries such as Sweden and Austria require a minimum of 25 days.
Australia insists on 20 days, Mexico mandates 6 days, and China requires 5 days.
The U.S. government does not require companies to provide any vacation days. That’s right. Zero.
A lot of U.S. companies apparently take advantage of this lack of legislation, too.
A 2013 study estimated that almost one in four American workers have no paid vacation time.
Even workers who are given vacation days don’t seem to take them.
A 2016 study by Project: Time Off indicated that U.S. workers took an average of 21 days of vacation in May 1996. That fell to 16 days in March 2016.
In fact, the average American worker takes only about half of their allotted vacation time, according to an article published on Inc.com.
And even when we’re on the beach or in the mountains, we don’t completely unplug.