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Overworked Americans Can't Use Up Their Vacation

May 26 2017 - Americans continue to take the fewest annual vacation days in the industrialized world.

A survey for Glassdoor, a large, fast-growing job site, shows that the average U.S. employee receiving vacation/paid time off only took 54 percent of their eligible vacation time/paid time off during the past 12 months. This is almost the same as the 51 percent reported in 2014 when the survey was first conducted.

The 2017 online survey was conducted from March 30 - April 3 2017 within the USA by Harris Poll for Glassdoor. 2,224 U.S. adults aged 18 and over were polled (compared with 2022 in 2014). Among these (2014 in brackets):

  • 1,209 (1089) were employed
  • 852 (736) received vacation/paid time off
  • 771 (623) took vacation/paid time off in the previous 12 months

Looking at those employees who received vacation/paid time off, 91 percent reported taking at least some time off in the previous 12 months, compared with 85 percent in 2014. 23 percent of the same employees in 2017 reported taking all (100%) of their eligible time off while, at the other extreme, 23 percent reported taking a quarter (25%) or less of their eligible time off. Both down from 25 percent in 2014. Just under a tenth (9%) of entitled employees took no vacation or paid time off at all.

Getting away from work - or not

So, slightly more employees took vacation time but getting away from work is not so easy. More American employees (66%) in 2017 reported working when they did take vacation compared to three years ago (61%).

Employees who took vacation/paid time off reported (2014 in brackets):

  • 54 percent (63%) were unable to completely "check out" while on vacation>/li>
  • 27 percent (20%) were expected to stay aware of work issues and jump in if things needed their attention while they were away
  • 12 percent (9%) were expected to be reachable, deliver work and/or participate in conference calls etc. while on vacation
Keeping in touch

Not surprisingly, many employees remained in contact with managers or colleagues when using paid time off (2014 in brackets):

  • 29 percent (24%) reported being contacted by a co-worker (up from 24 percent in 2014) about a work-related matter
  • 25 percent (20%) reported being contacted by their boss
Work stays on the American mind

Almost a quarter (23%) of the employees who took vacation/time off from work in the previous 12 months said they found it difficult not to think about work while they were on vacation - compared with 17 percent in 2014. 14 percent reported a complaint from a family member that they were working while on vacation - up from 9 percent in 2014).

Ironically, however, not all employees used vacation time for a vacation. Twelve percent used paid time off in the past 12 months to attend interviews for another job!

Why did people work while they were on vacation? The top reasons given were:

  • because they feared getting behind (34 percent)
  • no one else i their organization could do the work while they were out (30 percent)
  • they were completely dedicated to their organization (22 percent)
  • they felt they could never be disconnected (21 percent)

Carmel Galvin, Glassdoor chief human resources officer.said:

"We are seeing a push and pull situation when it comes to employees taking vacation and paid time off, in which people attempt to step away from the office for a break from work, but technology is keeping them connected with the swipe of a finger. While taking a vacation may make employees temporarily feel behind, they should realize that stepping away from work and fully disconnecting carries a ripple effect of benefits. It allows employees to return to work feeling more productive, creative, recharged and reenergized. In turn, employers should consider what a vacation really means - to actually vacate work - and how they can support employees to find true rest and relaxation to avoid burnout and turnover within their organizations."

Glassdoor has compiled a number of blog posts with relevant data and helpful tips, including: 7 Ways To Manage Employee Time Off and How Soon Should You Put in for Holiday Vacation?.

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