A new study of the US business sector indicates American workers are shying from taking earned vacation time for fear that they will look like an unnecessary employee.
The study found that American workers gave up $52.4 billion in time-off benefits last year and took fewer vacation days than at any time in the last 40 years.
The study was conducted by Oxford Economics for the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Effect Initiative and was aimed at discovering the financial impact of vacation time.
“Americans are work martyrs,” the U.S. Travel Association said in its study titled, “All Work and No Pay: The Impact of Forfeited Time Off.” The authors continued, saying, “Tied to the office, they leave more and more paid time off unused each year, forfeiting their earned benefits and, in essence, work for free.”
The study found that Americans took an average of only 16 vacation days in 2013. This is down from previous years. As recent as the year 2000, for instance, workers took 20.3 days off, the study said.
By this group’s reckoning, that is upward of $284 billion not being spent by workers while on vacation.
The devastated economy over the last ten years accounts for this reticence to take time off, CNN reported.
Americans are afraid to take too much time off for fear of being thought of as expendable. Workers are deathly afraid of losing a job that they know will be very, very difficult–if not impossible–to replace.
Stress management trainer and coach Joe Robinson told CNN that “workers are afraid to take their vacations in the layoff era. It might mark them as less ‘committed’ than coworkers.”
“It’s called defensive overworking. They work long hours and skip vacations to insulate themselves from cutbacks,” Robinson added.
Other workers are afraid that when they return from time off their workload will be doubled or tripled because companies are often operating with a reduced work force.
But job security is the biggest fear that workers have in the USA today. A survey taken in Sept. found that only one in four workers felt that their job was secure.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.