When you don't use your paid time off, it ends up costing you.
Not only are you more likely to be stressed and feel overworked, you lose out on the monetary value of those forfeited days — the ones that can't be rolled over or paid out.
In 2016, more than half of all Americans forfeited vacation days, amounting to 206 million unused vacation days worth some $66.4 billion, according to a survey of 7,331 full-time employees.
For the average worker, the lost value of that untaken paid time off comes out to $604, according to a report by Project: Time Off, which is sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association.
The good news is American workers are beginning to take at least a little more time off. After the 2008 financial crisis, the number of vacation days Americans took on average dropped from around 19 to 16. Last year, the number increased modestly for the second year in a row, to an average of 16.8 days.
But many professionals still worry about taking vacation days.
"Seventy percent of forfeiters believe that their company culture is negative, sends mixed messages, or is silent about vacation time," says Project: Time Off Senior Director Katie Denis in a statement.
The top reasons Americans report for not using all of their vacation days are:
- Returning to a mountain of work: 43 percent
- Feeling that no one else can do their job: 34 percent
- The pressures of a senior role: 33 percent
- Can't financially afford a vacation: 32 percent
- Want to show complete dedication: 26 percent
Separate research shows that the worry or stigma around taking vacation days affects a significant number of workers.
A survey of more than 5,000 workers conducted by U.S. Travel Association in 2015 found that 28 percent of workers did not take vacation because they were afraid of being seen as a slacker or wanted to prove their dedication. Some younger professionals skip out on taking time off for fear of not being considered for a promotion.
That strategy can easily backfire.
"Employees who forfeit their vacation days do not perform as well as those who use all their time," Denis says.
If you need help rationalizing your decision to use your vacation days, remember that taking time for yourself helps avoid burnout.