Overworked Americans don’t take all their vacation time

August 4, 2011

Technology blurs the line between home and work, according to Good.is.  Reuters/handoutGetting a lot of out-of-office emails and feeling some vacation envy? You may feel like you’re the only one left in town during these dog days of summer, but that’s not the case.

Paid vacation leave is the most widely available perk for employees, accessible to 91 percent of full-time workers, according to a new study on employee benefits from the Labor Department. But a new infographic on “The Overworked American” by the web magazine Good (click here or on the image at left to get the whole infographic) points out that despite these benefits, 36 percent of workers don’t use all of their allotted vacation days and a similar number take less than a seven-day vacation when they do step away from their office.

How do you stack up? Take our poll:

[poll id=”29″]

That’s a bleak illustration of our working life in America: all work, no play and no break from tasks even when we’re off the clock. And that’s just for full-time workers. The government’s Employee Benefits Survey further notes that part-time employees get shorter shrift, with only 37 percent having access to paid vacation leave and 27 percent who could take paid sick leave.

Good points out that one-third of U.S. employees feel chronically overworked, that 56 percent do at least some work from home and that a typical American spends 102 minutes doing unpaid work (which may include housework, care for household members, volunteering and shopping).

The result of all this hard work is supposed to be higher productivity, but Good points out that it also means that 20 percent of workers who feel overworked make a lot of mistakes and 39 percent experience anger toward their employers.

“Even given the nature of the economy, it tells me more about the organization than it does about the employee when employees don’t take vacations,” says Michael Warech, president and founder of Warech Associates, a consulting firm that works with major corporations on employee issues. “I think it’s a mistake to not encourage people to take vacations. In the long run it’s going to lead to disappointment and disillusionment.”

Warech suggests that employees take data like that released by the Labor Department, and compiled by Good, and really parse the numbers. Is it top performers not taking vacation? Is it senior management? “The data has implication for actions that leadership could take,” he says.

And if they want a free suggestion, he offers that hotels and airfares are still offering discounted rates in this bad economy: “What’s to stop a company from saying, ‘We purchased up a block of vacations’ and then use them as incentive to their employees through sales contests or whatnot?”

 

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It’s a shame many Americans are reluctant (or unable) to take time off, but so willing (and able) to add a prescription drug to their daily intake. It’s great to offer incentives to get people thinking that a vacation from work is normal again. Maybe if the prescription for restless leg syndrome was a week-long vacation of, say, nature walks–or anything besides sitting in a cubicle, that would help, too. If the stress of being overworked can result in our neurons literally short-circuiting and our circulation failing, why not “control” such situations with time off instead of a pill? (Time heals many, if not all, wounds). MoreVacationsLessMedications.com and Take Back Your time have the right perspective.

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