American workers get less vacation time than their counterparts in many European nations, yet many don’t even use all of their time off.
American workers didn’t take 768 million vacation days in 2018, the most recent data available from the U.S. Travel Association (USTA). That was up 9 percent from 2017.
Today — National Plan for Vacation Day – is the perfect time to make a change.
“Time off is essential to a healthy work environment because it gives us a chance to recharge and reconnect with family and friends,” USTA CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “Workers who take the time to plan ahead bring more and better energy to the workplace.”
More than one-third of American working adults experience chronic work stress, including low salaries, lack of opportunities for growth, too heavy of a workload and long hours, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Research shows that time off — even a short break — helps reduce stress, increase energy, and improve productivity and creativity, which may improve job performance and overall well-being. One study found that a one-week resort vacation provides short-term relaxation benefits, such as greater vitality and less stress. Another study found that even one four-night vacation in a different area has large, positive effect on managers’ stress, recovery and well-being that can last 45 days.
But the APA survey found that some vacation benefits are short lived. Upon returning to work, nearly a quarter of workers surveyed said the positive effects disappear immediately and 40 percent say they last only a few days.
Perhaps the answer is to take shorter vacations more frequently. That may be happening already.
Not only are Americans taking shorter trips, but these “micro-cations” are replacing the traditional week-long vacation. More than half of Americans took a vacation of four nights or less, according to a 2019 study by Allianz Global Assistance. The younger you are, the likelier you are to take a short vacation.
Of the average 17.4 days American workers took off in 2018, only eight of those days were used to travel.
Could part of the issue be the time and energy it takes to plan a trip?
Travel experts say planning is key to using more of your earned time off, yet only a little over half of American families take the time to plan a vacation, according to USTA data.
The USTA found that planners used an average of 12 paid time-off days to travel in 2018 vs. 5 days for non-planners. More than half of planners took a vacation in the last six months vs. more than a third of non-planners.
The USTA offers an online tool to make planning vacations easier. You enter the number of your vacation days to plot trips for the year, send it to your work or personal calendar and share it with family, friends and co-workers.
Start by planning a long weekend somewhere close to home so it’s not overwhelming.
Note: The featured photo at top is from rawpixel.com.