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Washington-DCWhen was the last time you used all your paid time off? Have you always used all your paid vacation days and paid holidays? If you are an American, chances are 50/50 it was far too long ago, if ever. According to a study by the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of Americans do not use all their time off.

Americans are not taking vacations.

Why would Americans leave vacation unused? A study by the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology showed that Americans who struggle to take time off often do so because they have trouble disconnecting from work, don’t think the vacation will go well and anticipate being stressed from things like finances.

According to the USTA’s study, 80 percent of Americans thought it was important to travel during their time off but don’t for similar reasons: too hard to get away from work, financial stress and frustrations around air travel.

The pandemic changed how many in the world work: offline to online, in the office to work from home.

Has this improved our ability to take a vacation?

In many ways, yes. Suddenly, people were spending more time with their families and being reminded of what is most important in life. And with the increased remote work, people felt they could travel more often.

Indeed, since the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in bleisure travel, and many employers offer it as a benefit to attract new hires.

Yet, for some, the rise of remote work has blurred the lines between work and time off more than ever.

Ed Zitron shared in The Atlantic about his struggles detaching from work before and during the pandemic. As the CEO of the technology public relations firm EZPR and the author of the tech and culture newsletter, Where’s Your Ed At, the responsibilities felt too overwhelming to escape. Yet, his experience contracting COVID-19 showed him that working from home had become a “productivity trap” that he needed to address for himself and his employees.

“I’m slowly learning that a few hours, or a day, or even a week away won’t bring the world to an end and that those emails will be waiting for me when I’m done relaxing,” he writes.

Even the most experienced travellers are leaving paid vacation time unused. According to the Global Rescue Traveler Safety and Sentiment Survey, most travellers (68%) have taken all their paid time off. Of the 32% who have not, fear of falling behind, returning to a mountain of work, and the inability to disconnect from work are the leading reasons for relinquishing paid leave time.

The practice of taking time off must be learned in American culture. Since it’s not in our country’s culture, it is certainly a shift for employers and employees. Leaders almost have to tell people how to unplug, and then employees have to take responsibility for doing so.


Written by: Stephanie Diamond


Bio of Author
Stephanie Diamond is a veteran international human resources expert and currently VP of Human Capital Management for Global Rescue, the leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services.