Three million years worth of days – that’s how many vacation days American workers won’t bother to take in a given year, according to new studies released by Harris Interactive, Expedia.com and Universal Parks and Resorts.
"Americans' state of Vacation Deprivation is unfortunately becoming a disturbing trend -- one with a definite price tag," says Kari Swartz, Expedia.com product manager for leisure travel. "This year alone, the value of the vacation days that Americans are projected to give back is estimated at almost $54 billion."
The top-ranking cities for vacation deprivation are clustered around the East Coast from the Mid-Atlantic northward to New England as well as the Gulf of Mexico area. These areas are challenged by today's sluggish economy, as evidenced by Austin, Texas, at number six, recovering from the "tech wreck," to New York at number ten, suffering from high unemployment.
"Areas with shaky economies tend to have businesses which have more control over their workers," said Bert Sperling of Sperling's BestPlaces who helped to conduct the study for Universal. "The implication might be that workers who have job security concerns want to be seen as indispensable to their employers; taking vacation -- in their minds -- would undermine that."
Regardless of the cause, says Joe Robinson, vacation advocate and author of Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life, not taking sufficient time off can be genuinely harmful.
"The study reinforces the sad fact that our workaholic culture looks down on people taking their well-earned vacation time, when, in fact, the science shows that job performance increases after a vacation, because you come back recharged and rejuvenated," said Robinson. "Time off is medicine. It's as important to your health as watching your cholesterol or getting exercise. An annual vacation can cut the risk of heart disease in men by 30 percent and in women by 50 percent. It also can cure burnout. The study is a wake-up call for people to step back from the stress and take their vacation time."
Getting The Vacation You Deserve
Robinson suggests these five things to get the vacation you deserve:
- 1. Don't Wait till it's too Late - Start thinking about what you want to do on your holiday at least six months ahead of time. Planning ahead commits the boss - and you - to the vacation so it's less likely to be postponed or scrapped at the last minute.
- 2. Cross-train Colleagues - Train a colleague or two on your job so they can fill in some of your tasks while you're gone. You'll do the same for them. Cross-training is the secret to long vacations in Europe.
- 3. Cut the E-Leash - Set up your e-mail with an "out of office" tag, and don't let any laptops, pagers or other work devices stow away with you. If you're in touch with the office, you're not on vacation.
- 4. Don't Abbreviate - Push for all the time you can get. Three-day weekends are fine, but they're not vacations.
- 5. Unpack Before You Go - Leave behind the productive work mind set and the guilt that goes with it. Vacations are not about output; they're about input - exploring, learning, experiencing, relaxing. Don't fill time; make it fulfilling.
Copyright 2005 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.