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No-Vacation Nation: Why Americans Feel That PTO Is NSFW

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This story appears in the November 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Let’s get real: You need a break. 

Studies have shown that time off from work is great for your body and your mind. Problem is, no one’s taking it. A survey of more than 1,300 U.S. employees and senior business leaders, conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications for Travel Effect and the U.S. Travel Association, shows that Americans are increasingly stressed at work but aren’t taking the breaks they’ve earned. Despite acknowledging the benefits of downtime, 41 percent do not plan to use all their paid time off (PTO) this year. 

A deeper look into the report reveals the struggle employees face to healthily balance their workloads with a culturally driven must-work-nonstop mindset. 

Vacation, all I ever wanted

  • 96 percent of workers recognize the importance of using PTO, including 95 percent of senior business leaders.
  • 90 percent of workers say PTO helps them relax and recharge; 88 percent say it offers the opportunity to do what they enjoy; and 85 percent say it makes them happier. 
  • 65 percent say their concentration and productivity improve with PTO, and 61 percent report greater satisfaction at work.

Work, bitch

  • 67 percent of workers say they receive negative, mixed or no messages about taking PTO from their company.
  • 31 percent say they do not control their own PTO—the company does.
  • 37 percent say it’s not easy for them to take the PTO they’ve earned.
  • Some senior business leaders say that when workers take all of their PTO, it signals that they are less dedicated (39 percent), less successful (35 percent) and less productive (38 percent). 

Can’t stop, won’t stop

  • The top barriers workers cite to taking PTO are:
  • Returning to a “mountain of work” (40 percent).
  • “Nobody else can do the work” (35 percent).
  • “Cannot afford” it (33 percent).
  • Wanting to show complete dedication to the company and their job (28 percent).

Source: GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications for the U.S. Travel Association, August 2014

Edition: December 2016

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