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It’s No Holiday When It Comes to PTO Use

Vacation days often go unused in the United States, but sacrificing PTO days may not help employees get ahead.

Vacation time is always sweeter in the summer, but why do Americans not use all their time off? According to a study this year by Project Time Off, 662 million vacation days went unused — 4 million more days than in 2015.

Vacation time is always sweeter in the summer, but why do Americans not use all their time off?

The study, which surveyed more than 7,000 full-time employees, found that the average number of paid vacation days used was 16.8 days per year, an increase from 2015 but still relatively low. By comparison, from 1978 to 2000 Americans took about 20 days per year. The business coalition wants to shift the culture and attitude around taking time off to seeing it as beneficial for personal well-being, professional success, business performance and economic expansion, said Katie Denis, vice president and lead researcher at Project Time Off.

“I firmly believe an employee’s workplace itself should be just as invested in an employee’s vacation time as the employee,” Denis said.

She said that PTO brings more productivity, creativity and work-life balance to an individual and a company as a whole; the latter usually improved through a better talent market, a stronger economy and a healthier work culture.

Denis said the biggest takeaway from the study was that “sacrificing vacation time does not help you get ahead,” as is a common stereotype among so-called “work martyr” millennials. Although the generation seems committed to their job, the question becomes whether they are genuinely hard-working or simply constantly on, she said.

It’s in part credited to the way they grew up: entering the workforce during a negative economy, with technology flourishing and steep student debts has created constant buzz to get ahead.

The study found that more than half of non-managers never heard encouragement from leaders to take PTO.

Ariel Parrella-Aureli is a Workforce intern. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.