Columns and Commentary

Qwick Takes: Why are Americans skipping their vacation

January 3, 2022

Posted by Irina Slav

This week on, Deputy Editor Erica Thompson reached out to Qwoted’s community of experts to ask them about why Americans are skipping their vacation days.

Check out some of the top commentary:

Michael Alexis, CEO at

There is a known-meme about video games, where you hold onto your healing items for the entire game instead of using them throughout. The idea is that you might need a boost later, and it could be a more difficult spot, so you may as well work through the current challenge without them. This kind of speculative hoarding is also present with PTO. Especially with remote work, you can find time around weekends, official holidays and so on to have extended time with family or even on vacations. You hold on to your PTO to use at a better time later, but then the year ends and you still have them left.

Elisabeth Duncan, VP of Human Resources at Evive:

When employees were asked directly how often they had to work after hours or off days to finish work, there was a disconnect with how employers saw employees working additional time.

When employers were asked how often their employees had to work after hours or off days to finish work, 21% said every day or several times a week compared to 15% of employees who work overtime every week. Employers said 22% of employees often worked after hours or off days several times a month, whereas 14% of employees said they worked that additional time. When it came to employers seeing how often employees had to work after hours or on off days, 43% said occasionally but employees said 32% – 10% less. For those who report they only rarely work after hours or off days to finish work, it’s a different story.

For employers, 14% said that workers only rarely need to spend hours or off days finishing work, but employees disagree. Thirty-eight percent of employees said it’s only on rare occasions that they must work after hours or off days to finish work.

Bottom line: While a third of employees (38%) say they hardly ever have to work extra hours, while 14% of employers say the same about their workers, many are. Working extra hours shouldn’t be a weekly occurrence for 15-20% of the workforce, which could translate into a symptom of understaffing

That said, Elisabeth encourages every employee to use their paid time off to relax and refresh because it keeps employees healthy, happy and engaged.

Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP®, Founder at Live, Learn, Plan:

Americans skip their vacation days, for the same reason they don’t take their sick time: There is an expectation that they ‘go above and beyond’ at work. It isn’t that we do not like our vacation time, it is that we are worried that taking time will be used against us. Even when we do take our vacation time, it is rare to truly disconnect. We are still expected to ‘be available’ via email or cell phone. So if we are going to be connected, we might as well go to work.


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