Vacationing Americans and the “Work Martyr Complex”

American workers on vacationI’ve blogged before about the propensity for Americans to forego using all of their allotted vacation time in a given year.

But that was back in 2012, in the waning months of the “Great Recession,” so perhaps one reason for those dynamics was leaner workforces and the need for “all hands on deck.”

A few years have gone by since then, and … very little has changed in these dynamics.

That’s the conclusion in a report released this week by the U.S. Travel Association.  Titled “Overwhelmed America: Why Don’t We Use Our Paid Time Off?”, the study included a survey of ~1,300 American workers and senior business leaders, conducted by GfK.

What the survey found was that 40% of workers fail to take all of their allotted paid time-off.

When asked why this was the case, look at the reasons that were cited:

  • Taking time off will cause my work to pile up: ~40% cited
  • Nobody else can do my job while I’m on vacation: ~35%
  • I can’t afford to take time off:  ~33%
  • I don’t want to be seen as “replaceable”: ~22%

The study characterizes the atmospherics surrounding the phemonemon as a “work martyr complex.”

As U.S. Travel’s chief executive puts it, “busyness” is something Americans wear as a “badge of honor.”

But there may be a bit more to it than that.

The survey also found that two-thirds of the respondents feel that their employer sends mixed messages about taking vacation … says nothing at all about it … or actually discourages people from taking paid time off.

What appears to motivate workers to take their full allotted vacation time is the implementation of “use it or lose it” policies.  When such policies are in place, ~84% of workers take all of their allotted time.

By contrast, for companies that offer the ability for workers to roll over vacation time, bank it, or be paid for time not taken, only about half of their employees (~48%) use all of their time.

The big question is whether most companies truly buy into the notion that taking vacation time is important for overall employee health, well-being and relationships – because the survey found that only a distinct minority of companies (one in four) maintain a “use it or lose it” PTO policy.

Of course, the members of the U.S. Travel Association would certainly benefit if more Americans took paid time off and used it to travel to vacation destinations.   Still, Roger Dow’s contention that “it’s time to start a conversation and reclaim the benefits we work so hard to earn” makes sense to me.  The full report can be viewed here.

At our company, we’ve a “use it or lose it” PTO policy in place for years.  What’s your own situation?

Where in the World do Americans Wish to Vacation?

World of travel: Americans see Italy as their #1 overseas vacation destination.Have you ever wondered where Americans would wish to vacation overseas if they had the opportunity and the financial wherewithal? It’s a topic that that Harris Interactive surveys every year.

The results are now in for the 2011 survey, which queried nearly 2,200 adults online in July … and for a second year in a row, Italy comes in first place in popularity.

Countries in Europe and Oceania remain the most popular vacation countries for Americans, a finding Harris has observed in annual surveys ever since 2008. This year, the Top 10 countries chosen by respondents for vacation destination are as follows:

#1: Italy
#2: Great Britain
#3: Australia
#4: Ireland
#5: France
#6: Greece
#7: Spain
#8: Germany
#9: Japan
#10: Canada

Since 2008, the biggest shift in popularity has been in Spain (up three notches) and in Japan (down two spots). What’s causing this? One too many natural disasters in Japan? … The increased popularity of the Costa del Sol?

While Italy is the top pick in 2011 for both men and women, there are some differences when looking at the next-ranked countries:

 For men, the #2 choice is Australia, followed by Great Britain.

 For women, the #2 choice is Great Britain, and Ireland is #3.

 Baby boomers as well as respondents over the age of 65 choose Great Britain over Italy as the top vacation destination.

In viewing the 2011 results, I was somewhat surprised by the lack of any Caribbean countries on the list.

If Harris continues to conduct this survey annually, it will be interesting to see how the results change over time. I’d predict that Brazil and Argentina may start making the Top Ten list before too long. (Speaking for myself, those two would be my picks a lot sooner than some of the other countries listed above.)

More survey stats and a history of results can be found here.