People Aren’t Taking Their Vacation Days, And That’s A Mistake


The landscape of American vacation habits is abysmal. On average, we receive just 10 paid days (or two work weeks) off every year while most European countries easily double that number. And on top of that discrepancy, we don’t even use all of the days we earn. Year after year, the average American employee leaves a solid half of their vacation days on the table.

Does that make any sense at all? We don’t think so either, yet it’s still happening, and us millennials are some of the worst about it. That’s right, almost 60 percent of workers between the ages of 18 and 25 say they won’t use all of their days, and 25 percent say they won’t use any of them.


Fear is often cited as the primary reason for not taking what’s rightfully ours. It’s easy to stress out about getting behind and not meeting goals, and worrying that no one else will help pick up the slack while you’re away. Not to mention, most companies in the U.S. don’t provide workers with a sense of security. Unless you have union membership or are the rare bird who signed a time-committed contract, you’re likely an “at will” employee and can be let go for any reason (or no reason) without notice or promise of severance. Eeek.

And this might not come as much of a surprise, but so many of us are terrified of disconnecting for any period of time longer than a lunch break, let alone leaving work emails unattended for days at a time. And when our bosses don’t openly encourage us to take our vacation time, our likelihood of taking it drops even further.

Scaries aside, many American workers also report that they have too much work to do to feel good about taking time off, and if they were to go OOO, they don’t think they can afford a vacation financially. And then there’s the guy who genuinely likes his job so much he just doesn’t want to leave (okay, kiss ass).

There are some dramatic downsides to not stepping away from your work desk, too. Your productivity tanks and you easily burn out when you don’t take any time off. (Mental health is just as important as physical health). And speaking of physical health, men who are already at risk for heart disease are 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack when they skip vacations for five years or more, and women are almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease when they only vacation once every six years.

So the next time your vacation anxiety strikes, remember that your earned vacation isn’t a luxury or a perk, it’s a right. So use it. And better yet, plan it out ahead of time so you actually enjoy the vacation you choose rather than continuing creating barriers to your own work-life balance.