The U.S. is slowly becoming a nation of few vacation days. According to the recently released PTO Pressure Report by Kimble Applications, up to 47% of Americans didn’t use all of their vacation days last year and up to 21% left over five vacation days on the table.
Researchers surveyed 1,200 full-time U.S. employees who work for companies offering paid vacation time. The results of the survey found that not only are Americans largely unwilling to take time off of work, but their unwillingness comes from cultural pressures, workload, and management.
The number one driving force behind employees choosing not to use their vacation days is workload-related stress. Up to 27% of employees said they have too many deadlines to meet to take time off.
Another 13% said they were afraid to return to heavier workloads. This may not be too surprising considering up to 83% of U.S. workers are stressed and 70% feel they have too much work on their plates.
So it isn’t that Americans are unwilling to vacation. On the contrary, up to 92% of employees say they value their vacation time and more than 500,000 young adults have traveled to Israel on Birthright trips.
Rather, Americans are unwilling to go on vacation because they’re afraid. In fact, two out of 10 employees report they’ve been pressured by management not to take time off. And more than a quarter of surveyed employees said they felt anxious submitting a PTO request.
Pet ownership is another reason why Americans limit their vacation days. Although there are many tips for traveling with dogs, it can be challenging to drive for long periods of time with your pet, and not many hotels accept dogs.
It can also be difficult to travel with an older dog. Twice-yearly checkups are recommended for older pets and many older dogs require frequent bathroom breaks and hydration, making it a struggle to travel by plane unless you have a dog-sitter.
Another factor impacting Americans’ unwillingness to take vacations includes cultural pressures. Up to 14% of employees believe not using their vacation time will advance their career and 19% said they would give up their vacation time for a year if it meant a promotion.
What’s more, the cultural pressures are only worsening. A quarter of employees between the ages of 25 and 34 were more likely to give up their PTO for career compared to the 17% of employees between the ages of 55 and 64.
“I am an advocate of giving people a reasonable vacation entitlement and then encouraging them to take it,” said Mark Robinson, co-founder of Kimble Applications. “My experience is that businesses work best if there is clarity about this and people feel confident about planning their vacation well in advance.”
According to Forbes, one of the biggest problems with the prevailing management philosophy in the U.S. is to do more with less. This philosophy can often cause serious pressure that’s counterproductive and makes employees feel anxious and tired.
By encouraging vacation time, businesses actually improve their employee productivity and overall performance.
“Successful, sustainable organizations learn to plan their business around PTO time,” said Robinson.