Try Googling “why don’t Americans use all of their PTO?” From a travel advisor’s perspective and probably from yours as well, the results are less than appealing.
A recent study from the US Travel Association, Oxford Economics, and Ipsos found that the majority of Americans are not using all of their allotted vacation days. This wasn’t counting the vacation days that are not paid; this was paid time off, and 55% of Americans are leaving this time on the table. The researchers found that this breaks down to 768 million days of PTO that went unused in 2018, 236 million of which were completely lost (no rollover or cash out options).
To be fair, there is a bit of a silver lining to this. Although the number of unused PTO days is increasing, so is the total number of PTO days. Thus, Americans are using a lower percentage of their available days. But still--more than a quarter of our PTO days being left untouched? That’s significant.
The reasons that workers cite for not using all of their PTO have not changed much over time. Some people feel that taking a vacation would actually lead to more stress, as they fear the work that would amass during their absence. Others, especially those with more seniority, believe that only they can do their particular job and they wouldn’t want to negatively affect the company’s bottom line with their absence. Still others worry about their job security; they think that they won’t look committed to their job if they take the PTO that they are contractually allowed to take. The fact is that many Americans do not view their vacation time as a right, and they may be onto something.
Despite the average of 15 PTO days per year for workers with at least five years of experience, the work culture may dictate that workers take a lot less than that. Stories abound of managers not-so-subtly telling employees that sales figures are lower than last year because of a worker’s vacation. It is unfortunate, but this is the culture that exists in many American workplaces.
It’s beyond time to change that. Not only can time away from work reduce the likelihood of burnouts and increase productivity at the individual worker’s level, but using those vacation days would also create economic opportunities on a broader scale. The same study from the US Travel Association states that using those previously wasted PTO days would amount to $151.5 billion in travel spending and 2 million new American jobs. Recharging your batteries through travel is good for more than just you.
Do you know people who aren’t using all of their PTO? Are you one of them? My advice: round up some of those friends and start planning your next getaway!
Author: Debra Harris
As founder of Life’s Journey Travel, I’m deeply passionate about creating custom travel experiences that allow my clients to truly savor the journey.