The Day Off Deficit

Wake up. Shower. Breakfast. Work. Lunch. More Work. Dinner. TV. Sleep.

Overgeneralization aside, what you see above is the daily framework of the average working American in today’s society. Seems pretty straightforward, but what if I were to tell you that one of the aforementioned is actually negatively affecting your health, family life, social life, work performance, and the nation’s economy? Would you be surprised to hear that the answer, counterintuitively, is actually work? Sure, watching TV and eating frozen pizza for dinner won’t help, but we’ve already read those articles.

The US Travel Association recently partnered with Oxford Economics to research the effect that work – or, more accurately, the lack thereof – has on individuals, as well as the national economy. The findings are pretty conclusive; the bottom line is: use all of your vacation days!

The study has resulted in a new initiative, one I’m sure many will have no trouble getting behind. Titled the “Travel Effect,” it aims to change mindsets, shift American culture and motivate American workers to use more of their earned time off. The research found that the average working American left 3.2 personal time off (PTO) days on the table last year. Doesn’t sound that strange, does it? According to U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow, that’s exactly the problem:

“(This) announcement marks the start of a long-term strategy to transform public perceptions so that personal time off is understood as a business investment, an economic necessity and a path to stronger families and better personal health… A growing body of evidence shows that when we fail to take the time off we have earned, we are less productive and creative at work, we put stress on our relationships, and we undermine our personal health and well-being. Our initiative is simple and straightforward: Americans aren’t using all the days off they are entitled to and we have to change that.”

It’s not all that astonishing to find that the statistics show that taking PTO leads to an enhanced personal, social, and family life. Or that those who use their time off tend to have fewer minor health problems and lower levels of stress. What is surprising, however, is the amount of business that’s lost.

Those 3.2 days per person resulted in 429 million untouched days nationwide, which if used, could have generated $160 billion in business sales, $21 billion to the economy in terms of federal, state and local tax revenues, and 1.2 million US jobs. The direct effect of this increase in sales would largely be felt by those in the travel related industries such as food and beverage, lodging, recreation, and transportation.

But don’t confuse this as an initiative created by the industry that benefits from it the most. In fact, the indirect (i.e., non-tourism) sales account for nearly 60 percent of the $160 billion and would affect the finance, insurance, real estate, and manufacturing industries the greatest.

The above is just a small sample of the information the research has uncovered, and really warrants a full read at for those interested. But what you’ll find there is much of the same as what you see above: vacation time is good. It’s good for you, your company, and even somehow, the country.

Again, it’s counterintuitive to think working can have a negative effect on so many facets of your life, but I’m certainly not about to argue with Oxford Economics about it.