- A recent Joblist survey found that 43% of employees agree that they have not taken ample vacation days in the past year.
- The report found that unlimited PTO policies correlate with workers reporting the best work-life balance.
- People with just two weeks of PTO felt the need for time off more desperately than others post-pandemic.
Most employees have found it tough to take time off due to COVID-19 but at nearly two years into the pandemic, time off is a necessity.
Studies show working long days on a weekly basis makes employees more stressed and less productive, while detaching from work makes them more energetic and resilient and boosts productivity and the company’s bottom line.
Joblist surveyed over 1,000 full-time employees to explore how they feel about taking vacation time and here’s what it found:
- In the last year, employees have taken an average of 11 days off
- 43% of employees agree that they have not taken ample vacation days in the past year
- Just over half of employees believe their vacation policy should change due to COVID-19
- Employees with unlimited PTO were the most likely to report healthy work-life balance (61%) and those with two weeks were the least likely (53%)
Unlimited PTO policies correlate with workers reporting the best work-life balance
According to research, 3 in 4 employees responded optimistically about unlimited PTO as a policy.
Of those employees who already had unlimited time off, 82.1% felt positive about their PTO situation. Overall, more than 70% of employees surveyed were positive about the concept of unlimited PTO.
The survey also found that those who earned an annual salary of $45,000 or less were more likely to support unlimited PTO – a potential indication that this group prioritizes paid time off over a higher salary when job searching.
The ideal PTO approach
A slight majority of respondents (29.4%) wanted a system where their vacation time would accrue: If they had unused vacation days, they could “bank” them and use them at a later date, even beyond the fiscal year.
When the survey compared employees’ preferences with their existing vacation package, those who already had an accruing policy overwhelmingly chose it as their ideal solution.
Unlimited PTO was still a popular choice, if not the most ideal option for many. Over 65% of those already under this plan said it was their ideal vacation policy.
Regardless of the specific number of days, 77.5% of employees agreed that paid time off should be mandatory. There is actually no law that requires employers to provide paid time off, though most companies would have to in order to stay competitive and attract top talent.
Average vacation time
In the last year, full-time employees in the U.S. took an average of 11 paid days off work. Since the pandemic struck the country in March 2020, American workers are reporting working harder.
Almost 44% of employees reported not having taken enough time off in the past year.
How the pandemic has affected PTO
Even though most white-collar Americans were able to work remotely, the need for a vacation was arguably even higher.
53.6% of those surveyed felt their company’s vacation policy should have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
People with just two weeks of PTO felt the need for time off more desperately than others post-pandemic.
Lower-salaried workers were the most affected. This group was the one most likely to be negatively impacted by the pandemic in both physical and financial ways. More than half of those earning $30,000 or less a year agreed that COVID-19 had left them needing time off.
PTO is essential for employee wellbeing
Taking vacation time can reduce stress, help prevent burnout, and promote work-life balance by allowing for more time to be spent with family, significant others and close friends.
The pandemic significantly hindered employees’ ability to take vacation time because there wasn’t really anywhere to vacation, plus the fact that most businesses became short-staffed.
“Lots of companies have said we’re worried about our employees because no one is taking vacation. There is a lot of emotion and fear, and we want them to be able to get away and come back to us ready to work,” Carol Sladek, a partner at Aon and work/life leader told the Chicago Tribune.
60% of employees who don’t feel they have appropriate work-life balance are concerned about not having time to take care of themselves in terms of health, diet, and exercise, according to a Harris Interactive survey.
Consistently working long hours and not taking time away from work can have a damaging effect on health and can negatively affect family life.
A nine-year study reported in Psychosomatic Medicine found that vacations actually reduce the risk of heart disease. Men who did not take a vacation for several years were 30% more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who took a vacation at least one week a year.
Vacation deprivation may be equally bad for women. Women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.
Employees who take most or all of their vacation time each year perform at higher levels, are healthier, are more productive, and are more satisfied with their jobs than those who do not.