Americans are afraid to take vacations because we fear losing our jobs

According to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans are all work and no play, taking among the fewest vacation days compared to the rest of the world.

American workers only get an average of 10-14 days of paid vacation days after a year of employment, the Labor Department said.

There’s a lucky 2% of employees who are getting more than 24 days but they’re the chosen few.

Americans are too overwhelmed to vacation

And even when U.S. employees do get paid time off, the majority of Americans are not using it. More than half of Americans have not taken more than a week of vacation in the past year.

That’s unfortunate because the benefits to vacationing are wide-ranging. Vacations replenish your body’s energy, rejuvenate your mind’s creativity, and stave off burnout. Those of us who have experienced a vacation high after a break know this.

So it’s not that Americans don’t want vacations, it’s that too many of them feel like they can’t take one.

Americans who don’t take vacations do so out of fear: fear that if they take one, their job won’t be there when they return, fear that if they take a break, work will never get done. The U.S. Travel Association found that more than one in four Americans didn’t take a vacation because they feared being seen as a slacker. But in the long-run, if you don’t take a vacation, your career actually suffers. People who vacation are more likely to get raises than people who don’t.

This cultural attitude of relentless production gets legally enforced. Unlike the rest of the industrial world, the U.S. does not believe in an employee’s right to vacation. The U.S. is the only nation with an advanced economy that does not mandate any vacation days.

France gives its workers 30 days of vacation, Australia and the European Union legally enforce a mandatory minimum of 20 days, while Canada and Japan guarantee at least 10 days.

Meanwhile about one in four Americans feel like their employer expects them to keep working even on vacation.

To change this mentality, change is going to have to come from the top: from federal governments to the C-suite. Take the example of Evernote, which began offering unlimited vacations to its employees, even offering a sweet incentive of $1,000 a year to employees who took a week off away from their homes.

But employees were getting mixed messages. Then-CEO Phil Libin was encouraging a work behavior he himself was not doing because Libin hadn’t taken a vacation in years.

The lesson? Model the behavior you want to see in others. If you’re a manager who wants to get your employees to take breaks, you’re going to have to take a break yourself.