Survey: Workers want to take more vacations but are bad at planning time off

As the year gets underway, many of us start to daydream at our desks about vacations we want to take. Although American workers had an average of 22.6 vacation days in 2016 —nearly a full day’s increase from the year prior — around 54% of workers left days unused.

As the year gets underway, many of us start to daydream at our desks about vacations we want to take.

According to Project: Time Off’s new survey of 2,076 U.S. workers, 55% said we intended to use up all of our vacation time. But somewhere in the planning stages, momentum gets lost and vacation days go unused. Project Time: Off previously reported that although workers had an average of 22.6 vacation days in 2016 — nearly a full day’s increase from the year prior— around 54% of workers left days unused.

Survey: Many Americans are poor vacation planners, and it’s costing them

While the vast majority of workers (81%) agree that advanced planning makes it easier to take time off, Americans are split on whether or not to actually take the time to do it, with 51% saying they did not take time to schedule their vacation days. The top three reasons Americans said they let vacation plans fall through were due to uncertainty about work schedules, personal schedules, and difficulty coordinating child care.

You may think that letting a handful of days slip by would not matter, but when you do not make the most of your given vacation days, those lost days add up to tangible monetary benefits left on the table. The average worker forfeited $604 in benefits, Project: Time Off has calculated. In fact, not taking a vacation may be holding you back in your career, as people who take vacations are more likely to get raises.

How to be a better vacation planner

To be better at planning time off, you need to be better at giving advanced notice to your manager about your decision. Forty-three percent of managers said they were sometimes unable to approve vacation requests because employees did not provide enough advanced notice.

“The earlier you plan your time off, the more time you have to prepare for it,” Katie Denis, chief of research and strategy at Project: Time Off told Ladders. “Getting as much done before you leave and preparing any coworkers who will need to help in your absence can go far in assuaging any vacation guilt. It also helps to be a supportive colleague and help carry the load when others are out of the office.”

The more heads up you give your manager about your vacation plans, the more likely they are to approve them. Once you know you can take a vacation, you can start blocking time on your calendar to properly plan for it.

Work martyrdom has been found to be another reason Americans let vacation days go unused. When you believe you are the only person who can do your job, you feel too stressed and guilty to take time away from the office. If you find yourself feeling guilty about leaving work, take a step back to consider the many documented benefits of personal time off.

When you miss out on vacations, the ultimate loser is yourself. “Vacation does a lot to destress and energize employees, creating a more collegial, fun atmosphere, which will accomplish more for culture than guilt keeping you at the office will ever do,” Denis advised.

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.