New research shows that 47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time last year, and 21% “left more than five vacation days on the table.” When they do, 61% of Americans admit to working while away from the office. According to survey respondents, reasons for not taking vacation fell into four major categories:

  1. Vacations cause stress, rather than reduce it: 27% felt that they had “too many projects” and 13% feared “the amount of work they’ll return to.”
  2. My boss doesn’t like it: 19% reported being “pressured by their manger not to take a vacation.”
  3. It’s hard to unplug: 61% said they check on work while vacationing.
  4. It will derail my career: 14% believe not using vacation time “increases their chances for advancement”

Why are we seeing this trend?

Traditional management focuses on results. In the old way of working, productivity was measured in time; the longer a factory worker spent at the conveyor belt, the higher the yield. While most jobs have moved out of industrial factories, we’re stuck in an antiquated mindset around work. In that mindset, time off – including vacation time – means profit loss.

Why Vacation Matters

Modern organizations today understand that working smarter doesn’t necessarily mean working longer. Today’s workforce is motivated by flexible hours, remote work and a general sense of autonomy. In many organizations, employees are not only allowed to take vacation, but encouraged to do so. Effective managers understand that employees who are supported in finding balance between work and home life stick around longer and are better motivated to perform.

What the Best PTO Policies Offer

According to Glassdoor, the following companies are rated highest for vacation policies. While these are massive companies, they have put in the time and research to optimize vacation policies for thousands of employees. We can learn a thing or two from their approach:

  • IKEA: Starting from day one, employees can accrue PTO, and vacation can be taken in one-hour increments. Vacation time starts at three weeks, and increases to five weeks after a five year tenure and seven weeks after a ten year tenure. It gets better and better!
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Employees take up to 20 days off, and are encouraged to use their full allotment of vacation. The culture supports balance and avoids guilt around time off so employees feel as comfortable taking time off for a personal day as they do planning a big vacation.
  • Capital One: After 90 days on the job, employees can take four weeks of PTO. They also have the option to “buy” an additional week of PTO if they wish.
  • American Express: Employees get 28 vacation days, and they have the option to buy or sell extra vacation each year.