Americans taking fewest vacation days in four decades

Story highlights

Study finds U.S. workers forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits in 2013

In 2013, they took average of 16 vacation days, compared with 20.3 in 2000

With more people doing jobs of fewer people, many have too much work, says consultant

CNN  — 

Feeling buried by work, like you can’t find time for a few days off, like your entire work-life balance is out of whack?

If you’re an American worker, it just might be.

A new study has found that U.S. workers forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits in 2013 and took less vacation time than at any point in the past four decades.

American workers turned their backs on a total of 169 million days of paid time off, in effect “providing free labor for their employers, at an average of $504 per employee,” according to the study.

Titled “All Work and No Pay: The Impact of Forfeited Time Off,” the study was conducted by Oxford Economics for the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Effect Initiative, which studies the impact of forgone vacation time.

“Americans are work martyrs,” says the U.S. Travel Association. “Tied to the office, they leave more and more paid time off unused each year, forfeiting their earned benefits and, in essence, work for free.”

According to the study, in 2013 U.S. employees took an average of 16 days of vacation, compared with an average of 20.3 days as recently as 2000.

“The economic potential of returning to the pre-2000 vacation patterns is massive: annual vacation days taken by U.S. employees would jump 27% (or 768 million days), delivering a $284 billion impact across the entire U.S. economy,” according to the travel association.

Based in Washington, the association is a national nonprofit organization representing all components of the travel industry.

Does this describe you?

Productivity and stress management trainer and coach Joe Robinson says the issue is driven by a number of factors.

“One, workers are afraid to take their vacations in the layoff era,” Robinson said. “It might mark them as less ‘committed’ than coworkers.