When is the last time you had a real vacation rather than taking a day off here or there? If the answer is a long time, you’re not alone. According to a study done by The Washington Post, working Americans are about 50 percent less likely to take a vacation than they were four decades ago.
In early 1980, Insider reported, “an average of about 3.2% of the American labor force was on vacation at any given time….In December 2022, that rate fell to just 1.7%.
The figures are based on the Census Bureau’s monthly studies of about 60,000 Americans to determine the unemployment rate. The studies include questions about whether respondents are working and help the Bureau of Labor Statistics determine how many are on vacation weekly, according to the Post.”
The Post wrote, “It does not seem to be a matter of vacation-day supply. It is true that the United States is the only advanced economy without guaranteed paid vacation. However, BLS data on employee benefits suggests that more than 90 percent of full-time, private-industry workers have access to paid vacation time, a figure that has remained relatively steady for decades. And the number of paid vacation days offered by the typical employer has ticked up in recent years.
At George Mason University, organizational psychologist Lauren Kuykendall looked deeper into anti-vacation forces in a 2020 analysis published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. She and her students found that employees are less likely to use all their vacation days if they don’t expect to detach from work and truly relax, or if they worry that vacations will set them back financially.
Focus groups of hospitality workers convened by Elizabeth Yost of the University of Central Florida and her colleagues Edwin Torres (Rochester Institute of Technology) and Giulio Ronzoni (University of Florida) produced similar findings. Several respondents said technology had changed the feel of their vacations, making them more likely to check in on things at the office. Many others cited the cost of travel as a vacation deterrent. Some said they broke their vacations into smaller, more affordable trips, or took time off midweek to run errands or go to the dentist.
‘Individuals would weigh the cost/benefit of taking all of that time off at once,” Yost told us. “And they found that there was more of a benefit personally and professionally to take shorter vacations that were purposeful.'”
Americans work significantly more than in Europe.
Business Insider wrote about how shocked a Dutch CEO was when he started working in the United States. The outlet said, “While some European companies are trying out a four-day work week to give employees more time off, many US workers struggle to even use all of the few vacation days they have.
Americans’ hesitancy — or inability — to take significant time off is something Sander van ‘t Noordende, CEO of the employment services provider Randstad NV, noticed when he first moved to the US from the Netherlands, he said Thursday at a World Economic Forum panel in Davos.
‘When I moved to the US, people said, ‘On Wednesday we’re going on vacation.’ I said ‘okay that sounds great, when will you be back?’ ‘Yea, next Monday.'”
He expected his employees to be taking weeks off at a time.
Insider noted, “In 2021, only one-quarter of Americans used all their paid time off, according to a US Travel Association survey of 1,200 workers provided to Insider. The average worker had 15 vacation days but only used 11, citing COVID concerns, work-related barriers — such as being too busy or having a lack of coverage when they’re gone — and the cost of travel as reasons why they left days on the table. Including paid holidays as well as vacation days, the average American took over 20 days off between 1978 and 2000, but this has fallen to roughly 17 days in recent years.”
Maybe we should all be more willing to stop and smell the roses.
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