American 'Work Martyrs' Are Too Afraid to Take Time Off, Study Finds Last year, Americans willfully neglected $52.4 billion worth of time-off benefits.

By Geoff Weiss

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The idea of taking time off doesn't evoke the same sense of solace it used to. In fact, Americans are terrified of taking vacations, according to a new study by the U.S. Travel Association, which concluded that, last year, $52.4 billion worth of time-off benefits had been willfully neglected.

Why? Americans are "work martyrs," the association said. In an era of cutbacks, employees overcompensate so as not to be perceived as dispensable. Consequently, 169 million days' worth of paid time off were left on the table last year, as overall vacation use plummeted to its lowest levels in four decades.

Other reasons for vacation negligence included device addiction, fear of work pileup and performance identity -- or employees who tend to derive an unbalanced sense of self-worth from work. Increased layoffs today also mean that staffers wear multiple hats and can find it difficult to escape, productivity coach Joe Robinson told CNN.

If U.S. workers resumed the vacation levels of 2000 -- 20.3 days as opposed to 16 days in 2013 -- it would cost the economy $284 billion, according to the study.

Related: Unlimited Paid Vacation: 'Jedi Mind Trick' or Good Policy?

These figures are all the more alarming given that many experts agree that taking time off not only increases productivity but also improves employee standing in the eyes of leaders. "People who take more time off tend to get more raises and promotions," the U.S. Travel Association's president and CEO, Roger Dow, told CNN.

"It's futile," Robinson added. "People who don't take their vacations get laid off just like everyone else."

Perhaps in order to reverse this trend, certain employers, including Richard Branson, have announced unlimited vacation policies to shift the focus towards work completion rather than the number of hours clocked.

Tell Us: Are you guilty of work martyrdom? If so, why do you tend to neglect taking time off? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Related: Shark Tank Star Robert Herjavec: Don't Ever Expect a 'Balanced Life'

Geoff Weiss

Former Staff Writer

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at

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