Americans Are Taking Less Vacation Time from Work, and Technology Is to Blame

Motorhomes at Norwegian campsiteIn 2013, only 25% of Americans used all of their paid days off for the year, and a new report finds more Americans than ever are leaving their vacation days unused.

The Project:Time Off State of American Vacation 2016 report found that Americans took slightly more vacation days than in 2015, reporting an average of 16.2 days compared to 16.0 the year before.

This small increase comes as workers were given more time off than before–21.9 days on average– but they still used fewer vacation days than they did in 2014.

Project:Time Off’s report surveyed 5,641 U.S. employees on their vacation habits alongside an economic analysis conducted by Oxford Economics.

Overall, they found that America’s time off habits follow up-and-coming technology innovation and adoption trends. This finding suggests that this relationship has worked to intensify America’s attachment to work, reducing their ability to detach from the office while on vacation.

The finding goes against the assumption that economic trends nationwide are fueling the decline. Rather, Project:Time Off’s senior director and report author Katie Denis tells Forbes that technology may be the reason Americans always feel so connected at work:

“Technological advancements have irreversibly changed the way we work — in many ways for the better — but the omnipresent office requires being intentional about our time. Americans need to decide whether vacation will become a casualty of the new working world or if we will change to win back America’s Lost Week.”

In total, more than half — 55% — of workers left vacation time unused in 2015, amounting to 658 million unused vacation days. The unused days cost the U.S. economy $223 billion in global economic impact, along with 1.6 million jobs.

This is the highest figure Project:Time Off has ever reported.

But what is the reason for not taking vacation? According to Project:Time Off, 37% of workers report dreading coming back to a mountain of work, 35% say they don’t believe anyone else is qualified to do the work, and 33% cannot afford a vacation.

Additionally, workers say their managers place an unsurmounted amount of pressure on them when it comes to taking vacation days. Six of 10 workers report a lack of support from their bosses, and 53% felt the same from their coworkers.

More surprisingly, nearly two-thirds report a lack of response, mixed messages, or discouraging answers when they ask for time off.

According to the report, planning a vacation is crucial to actually going through with the trip, as 51% of all planners used their earned vacation time compared to only 39% of non-planners. For example, if campers are looking to go to one of our nations RV parks, which bring in about $5 billion per year then they must plan about a month in advance for their trip. In fact 43% of campers planned their trips at least one month in advance; staying in a hotel or booking a flight often requires even earlier reservations. These planners reported greater happiness in their vacation, including especially strong relationships with spouses and children.

And for those who go on vacation, they report using smartphones, laptops, and tablets to check up on the status of projects while away.

This marks a change, a crossroads for Americans when it comes to valuing their time away from the office.

Explained by Project:Time Off’s managing director Gary Oster to Forbes, “There are glimmers of hope, but to make real progress, we need to make the conscious choice that time off is as important as time on.”

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