While employees often say they want more vacation days and Americans may feel envious hearing about longer vacations in other countries, the reality is a lot of workers don’t take advantage of the vacation time they do have.
Research suggests if employees can’t fully let themselves unwind during work time off, more vacation days will do little to improve their work-life balance.
In a study called “2013 Vacation Deprivation,” Expedia interviewed 8,535 people across 24 countries. Their findings suggest that Europeans feel the most vacation-deprived, even though they take the longest vacations.
This is especially true for the French who take the longest paid vacation of 30 days, yet 90 percent say they feel vacation deprived, which is well above the 62 percent global average.
The French, similar to workers in some other vacation-rich countries, feel deprived because despite generous vacation leaves, they are still wired with work either “constantly, regularly, or sometimes” by checking work emails and voice messages.
In Asian countries, the work pressure plays out in different ways. Although they have some of the shortest annual leaves, employees only take a portion of their entitlements because they feel peer pressured to return to work early.
This trend is influenced by a work culture that treats work not just as a job, but as a large part of people’s lives—if not the sum of their lives.
These societies also treat vacation as a luxury rather than a right. According to the Expedia study, this also applies to Americans.
In Northern Europe, for example, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, their employees report being most satisfied with their generous vacation endowments. These countries also have some of the most stable economies.
The majority of full-time workers in the United States get 14 days of paid leave, but similar to workers in Asia, most only take 10. According to the poll, 35 percent say they’ve either cancelled or postponed their vacations due to work.
Economic expert of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), John Schmitt, explained to CNBC that many feel they don’t have enough job security to risk being out for a period even if they are entitled to them.
On a CNN article from July 19, 2011, titled “Which countries have the most vacation days?” a reader commented about the work environment in America:
“Management loads them up with so much work that they either don’t take all their vacations or they work 60 plus hours the week before and after their vacations. Not completing what the management assign them means losing their jobs to the Chinese or Indians.”
Another reader commented: “Our lack of vacation is one of the sad things in this country. I see people who wait until they retire to do what a European gets to do every summer. I see people at work who are 8 months pregnant, who have just had a child, who lost a loved one just a week ago, who had heart surgery recently, and these were the ‘lucky’ 50 percent professional who have salaries, benefits and vacation time. This would all be unthinkable in Europe.”
Schmitt also told CNBC that “I think what that means is people get nervous about both asking for time off and taking time off.”
(*Worker on beach image via Shutterstock)