Why it’s bad that 40% of Americans took no vacation days last year


You get vacation days for a reason — to take them! But a recent survey found that a staggering 40% of Americans took no vacation in 2015. But what’s even worse — people aren’t even taking their lunch break! So what is happening here and what are the consequences?

Long days and long weeks are nothing new for the American workforce. In fact, Skift, which provides information on the travel industry, found similar results in its 2014 survey on Americans and vacation time —  that a big chunk of people are working straight through the year without taking any time off.

On top of that, only 20% of Americans take a lunch break. And whether it’s because they’re just working ‘too hard’ or they don’t want to get up from their desk, the reason really doesn’t matter. Research shows that working too long, without taking a break, is good for no one.

Why Americans are all work, no play

Here are a few the reasons people gave for why they’re hesitant to take their vacation days:

  • Worried about falling behind at work.
  • Concerned their work won’t get done — or won’t get done properly — while they’re away.
  • They’re concerned they’ll seem replaceable while away.
  • Fear of returning to too much work.
  • Can’t afford to go on a trip anyway.

These are common concerns for a lot of people, especially those in competitive, fast-paced industries. But workers are given vacation days for a reason, and if you can’t afford to go on a trip, it’s still important — for your mental and physical health — to get away from work and do something else!

Potential consequences of nonstop working habits

The concerns around taking a long vacation are a little more understandable (although not a good enough reason!) than people not taking lunch breaks! Are workers really worried about being replaced if they get up from their desk for a midday meal break? Whatever the reason, experts say working through the day without taking a break is bad for you, as the worker, and it’s bad for creativity and productivity, among other things.

Read more: How working too much decreases productivity

‘We know that creativity and innovation happen when people change their environment, and especially when they expose themselves to a nature-like environment, to a natural environment,’ says Kimberly Elsbach, a professor at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, who studies workplace psychology.

‘So staying inside, in the same location, is really detrimental to creative thinking. It’s also detrimental to doing that rumination that’s needed for ideas to percolate and gestate and allow a person to arrive at an ‘aha’ moment,’ Elsbach told NPR.


So go for a walk — outside or just around the building — and get your head out of work for at least a few minutes each day.

Then, book your vacation days!

According to the Boston College Center for Work & Family, taking time off from work can increase both physical and mental well-being, as well as worker productivity and focus — results similar to those when you take a lunch break. Plus, taking days off leads to higher life satisfaction!

Read more: The #1 rule of cheap travel

Vacation time can also contribute to better family and personal relationships. How many times have you dismissed a loved one or friend — because you had to finish that one email or project — and then looked back on it and realized it really wasn’t that important?

If you’re lucky enough to have a stable job that offers you vacation time, take it — because not everyone has that option.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research estimates that one in four American workers don’t get paid vacation time from their employer.

So if you’ve got ’em, take ’em!

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