Accessibility links

Breaking News

American Workers Take Fewer Vacation Days Than Needed (Now Get Back to Work!)

It's August, which in the United States, is prime vacation season. However, for many Americans a vacation is the last thing on their minds as job responsibilities make it nearly impossible for them to get time off from work. More and more Americans are taking fewer vacation days and not using the time off they earned. VOA's Crystal Park has more on the disappearing American vacation.

Summer is a time for sun, fun, and vacations. But a growing number of Americans are spending more time indoors cooped up in offices.

So why aren't Americans taking time off? The biggest reason seems to be there is just too much work to be done and not enough time. Workers with too many job pressures don't feel comfortable taking a vacation when they are overloaded with work.

The U.S. is one of the only modern countries without mandated vacation time. In Western Europe, employees enjoy an average of five weeks minimum of vacation while Canada and Japan both require a minimum two weeks of vacation by law.

Without a national law for vacation time, some American employees aren't even sure how much vacation time they're given. Jack Dumbacher, with the California Academy of Sciences, says, "To tell you the truth, I have no idea what the numbers are."

This is in stark contrast with Western Europeans who seem to take their vacation time seriously.

Fritz Schuitmaker is from Holland and talks about the Dutch customs. "There's a famous Dutch way of saying whenever you need vacation, you do it right, very comfortably," he says. "I need my vacation just for kind of recuperation from my daily job."

Not using vacation time can cause problems in the office. Workers who don't go on vacation usually reach a breaking point from too much stress and will then take unplanned absences.

This in turn burdens coworkers who must work overtime to fill the gap. Employees who work too much overtime get stressed and increase absenteeism, perpetuating a vicious cycle further.

Sabine Kuhn, from Columbus, Ohio, believes businesses would survive. "I think we take work too seriously. Europe runs just fine and they have a lot more vacation than we do, and they take longer stretches of vacation and things still get done."

According to a survey by Harris Interactive, American workers will fail to use more than 421 million vacation days in 2005.

Jack Dumbacher says that's a mistake. "Whether you take a few hours at the end of each day just to really relax and reflect on the day or whether you take a week to reflect on the year, I think it's extremely important for people to take some time away and look back on their day and look forward to the next day and figure out how everything's going."

For too many Americans, the only place they are going is back to work.