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Lost: Over a Million Years of Vacation in 2014. Reward: ???

Posted by Jen Rossi on Mar 11, 2015 9:00:47 PM



The average American worker earned 15 paid days off in 2014. However, over 429 million days weren’t used. Employers are including vacation days in your benefits package, and they do contain value. Many workers know that they need to take advantage of 401K programs, especially if their employer matches to a certain percentage, but many are leaving their paid vacation time on the table.

Who is not using their vacation time and why?

In 2014 41% of the population did not take a break from the office last year. This is due to real or abstract stress of taking time off from the job. Combine this with how the American worker views vacation as frivolous. Finally, add the element of stress that asking to take time off may affect their value to their boss in the future. They were able to make do without me for a week, so that means I’m replaceable! What this person may not be considering is that their boss likely took a vacation. In a 2012 poll, 81% of managers planned to take a vacation, compared to 65% of full time employees.

What becomes the real cost of not taking a mental break from work?

Studies have shown that missing out on vacation can be downright hazardous to your health. The Framingham Heart Study (1965-1967) had shown that women who take two or more vacations per year cut their heart attack risk in half. Another study has verified that men who take frequent breaks are 32% less likely to die of heart disease.

Why is vacation time is important to employers?

Your vacation may not benefit the organization per se, but paid vacation and PTO plans are vital in attracting new talent. Popular among startups is the unlimited vacation benefit. This does not mean that your staff is on permanent vacation. Instead, staff is able to better coordinate time off because there isn’t pressure to use the days allotted to them within a time span, as is the case with “use it or lose it” policies.

How are employers getting creative with vacation time?

Some businesses, mostly in the tech sector, are offering new hires a week (or more) of paid vacation before they even start their new jobs. Called a “Pre-cation”, the idea is to refresh a worker that may be facing burnout. Another Silicone Valley concept is the vacation allowance, money provided by the company so that employees can afford to travel. Some companies go a more traditional route and opt for a bonus for new hires. This may allow a candidate the opportunity for a break between positions, or it may be a way to fund a future break from the office.


Employers: Considering the switch to PTO?

The Millennials are even influencing how businesses offer vacation time by lumping it with paid sick leave into Paid Time Off (or PTO). There are a couple of recommendations that should be considered before making the switch. First, look into how employees are using their days. If they are missing work to care for a sick child or an aging parent, the move to a PTO offering may be more beneficial. However, if workers are missing days because they are sick themselves, your employees may be less likely to use their PTO and contribute to negative attendance. Next, you will need to consider how remaining PTO time will be managed. Will employees need to use their days before the end of the year? This may cause scheduling conflicts when employees need to use or lose their time at the end of the year. May time be donated to a “PTO bank?” This could then be transferred to another employee in the case of an emergency. Some organizations consider this option for a way to avoid the end-of-the-year vacation-or-bust rush. The most important is that rules pertaining to earning paid time off, and using paid time off are managed fairly across your organization.

Are there alternative ways you can use your vacation time?

Is sitting on a beach or travelling the world not your thing? Some people use saved time off to take a sabbatical. This could mean taking a week off to do house repairs. Alternatively, you may take a couple of weeks to write a book. Perhaps you may use your time off to take a class, or apply it to any other activity that would require a length of time dedicated to the task or endeavor of your choice. Some consider this option to be easier to present to a supervisor over a traditional vacation request.


Just remember this; no matter what you call them, how frequently you use them, or how you fund it, employees work hard for their vacation days. It’s about time that they use them! Get your million back, America!

Topics: Wellness, For Your Business, Employee Benefits