Americans are working longer hours and working later into life than ever before, so it's not surprising that almost 60 percent of Americans feel vacation-deprived, according to Expedia's 2013 Vacation Deprivation study. And even when they are getting some R&R on the beach, 67 percent of vacationers said they stay connected remotely to the office, checking email and voice mail regularly.
The Expedia study, now in its thirteenth year, examined the work-life habits of 24 countries and found that America's work habits most closely resemble that of Asian countries, where workers average more than 48 hours a week, according to the most recent data available from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.
Although the Expedia study found that 76 percent of America's bosses support vacation plans, employees use only 10 out of every 14 vacation days each year. That means that of the roughly 144 million Americans employed in the U.S., more than 500 million workdays are left unused. The study also found that 35 percent of respondents frequently need to cancel or postpone vacations due to work-related issues.
A heavy workload is not only to blame for unused work time, however. In some states vacation time is considered compensation. So if an employee accrues paid time off, companies are required to compensate them when they leave. In the Expedia survey, 17 percent of Americans who did not use vacation days said the reason was a preference to "cash out" with their unused days. For this reason, many employees opt to stockpile them.
A new way to vacation
The number of vacation days an employee receives is usually based on years of service. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 days of paid vacation is given after one year of service; 15 to 19 days are given after 10 years; 20 to 24 days after 20 years, and so on.
But it seems this traditional approach to paid time off isn't working.
In an effort to encourage employees to take their vacation so they can be more productive when in the office, some companies have instituted a new vacation concept: unlimited paid time off. Referred to as "endless summer" by some companies, it typically combines vacation, sick and personal days without any set limit. Yes, that's right. There's no catch; it's truly unlimited.
(Read more: And the best companies to work for are ...)