Why Americans aren’t using all earned vacation time

WASHINGTON — Americans took an average of 16.2 vacation days in 2015, but had an average of 21.9 vacation days coming to them, according to D.C. nonprofit Project: Time Off.

That added up to 658 million unused vacation days, and 222 million of those vacation days were simply wasted by employees working at companies that don’t allow vacation days to be rolled over into the next year. While 55 percent of employers in the U.S. do allow some unused days to move to the next calendar year, 27 percent have a “use it or lose it” policy.

More than half of Americans left vacation time unused in 2015.

Why aren’t we taking all the time off we earn?

Project: Time Off says 37 percent of workers cite returning to a mountain of work as the greatest challenge, followed by 35 percent who say “no one else can do the job,” and 33 percent who say they can’t afford a vacation.

Project: Time Off is backed by more than 40 U.S. companies with a mission to change the thinking of Americans about vacation time so that it is not considered frivolous, but instead key to personal health and family.

And to get bosses on board too.

“A lot of managers know this contributes to a happier and more productive team, but the problem is they are not talking about it,” said Katie Denis, senior director at Project: Time Off.

“When we ask employees what they hear about vacation in your workplace, two-thirds say they don’t hear much at all. So that’s where we have a real problem,” she said.

The survey says that 32 percent of managers never talk about the importance of taking paid time off, and 11 percent only discuss it once a year.

So how can you make sure you take all the vacation time you have coming to you? Plan out a year’s worth of vacation early in the year.

“We asked people who planned out their vacation year and those who didn’t and if you look at the people who plan their vacation year, they are much more likely to use their time,” said Denis.

“They experience lower levels of stress at home and at work and in the nine categories that we looked at, they are happier in nine out of nine categories, including their professional success and personal financial situation, which are two things that people have the most anxiety about when they take time off,” she said.

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