It's no secret that workers in many other countries get significantly more vacation days than Americans do. But what's truly shocking is how Americans fail to use the few vacation days they do get.
In fact, Americans who earn vacation days wasted a record-setting 658 million of those vacation days last year, according to a recent survey from the Washington, D.C.-based initiative Project: Time Off.
Did you hear that, y'all? SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHT MILLION vacation days, simply left on the shelf to rot.
Project: Time Off surveyed more than 5,600 workers with paid time off about their vacation habits. They found that 55 percent of U.S. employees left at least some of their vacation days unused last year.
Around a third of workers took absolutely ZERO vacation days in the last year, a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll confirms.
Interestingly, changes in vacation habits aren't linked so much to the economy as they are to our ever-increasing dependence on technology, Project: Time Off found. Their research shows that as people become more tied to their phones and email, it becomes harder to pull away from the office.
But there's a simple way to reverse the problem, says Katie Denis, program director at Project: Time Off.
"We’re not going to 'find' time anymore," Denis says. "It’s about making time, or being intentional about our time."
Her organization's research found planning to be the single most important factor in whether people took their vacations or not: Fifty-one percent of those who planned ahead took all of their vacation days last year. They also reported greater happiness in their job standing, personal relationships and overall mood.
Denis suggests workers start by planning to take at least two of their vacation days in the coming year, because research found the average worker loses two vacation days per year that can't be rolled over or paid out.
She also advises that simply staying home for a day -- with your kids, significant other or just yourself -- can be just as memorable as taking a trip.
When you do take a break, you'll find yourself happier, more creative and more productive at work. It may sound counterintuitive, but trust us: A break is worth it.
We don’t know what you do for a living, but we do know you likely need a break. Therefore, we’re challenging you (yes — busy, overworked, financially stretched you) to #TakeABreak.
During the month of June, we’ll help you nail down how many vacation days you have, figure out where to go, and plan a trip you can actually afford. Sign up for our Take A Break action plan here!