Americans have a notoriously complicated relationship with vacations: We know we need to take them, and yet many of us rarely do.
Now, thanks to a new study on time off, that relationship just got even more complicated.
In 2013, a whopping 42% of working Americans reported they didn’t take a single vacation day. According to the new Project: Time Off study conducted by consumer research company GfK Public Affairs, the average US worker took just 16 days of paid time off, down from the more than 20 days workers took off between 1976 and 2000.
This, as numerous previous studies have pointed out, is bad for our health, happiness, productivity, the economy, our careers, and our finances. And the most recent study adds yet another con to the list: not taking enough time off is bad for our personal relationships.
Based on a survey of 1,214 adults living in US households where someone receives paid time off, 85% of respondents said people who fail to use time off are losing out on quality time with their significant other and their children. More than 80% also said it takes away from needed personal time.
The study also found in 36% of cases, conflict between couples about the time needed for work versus the amount of quality time needed for each other lasts at least one day and can become an ongoing issue.
Dr. Gilda Carle, a relationship expert and author of “Don’t Bet on the Prince!” noted in the study report that repeatedly choosing to work instead of choosing time with partners often goes unchecked until it’s too late. “Nobody talks about it until they realise that suddenly they feel that something is missing — that this thing is missing.”
What’s more, the study found that despite having time off available, the average person misses more than three important events a year due to work, including a child’s activity, vacations, visiting family, and even funerals.
“Our relationships shouldn’t be casualties of our work martyr complex. This report should serve as a warning that our loved ones deserve our time,” said Katie Denis, report author and senior director of Project: Time Off, in a press release about the study. “The solution is straightforward; it’s using the time off we already earn to prioritise our relationships and reclaim America’s lost week.”
Luckily, some companies are already forming a unified front to defend against wasted vacation time.
The Huffington Post recently joined companies like Daimler in an effort to help employees enjoy their vacation time with its opt-in vacation email policy, which gives employees the choice to have all their work-related emails deleted automatically while they’re on vacation.
And China-based multinational company Tiens Group sent about half its 12,000-people team on a four-day trip to France.
According to Michael Gurian, a marriage and family counselor who commented on the study, once an overworked person starts engaging more with loved ones on vacation, it “feeds the soul of this very hard worker.”
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