"Work martyrs" forfeit 662 million vacation days; direct spending takes hit

Jun 21, 2017

Perhaps it’s time to take a vacation. Not only because today is the official start of summer, but because most American workers likely still have unused vacation days.

According to a recent study conducted by Project: Time Off, 54 percent of Americans did not use all of their vacation days in 2016. The report covered the vacation behaviors of all 50 states and the 30-largest metro areas in the country.

The data indicates that some regions have a higher concentration of what experts call "work martyrs."

A couple chats with a travel professional about an upcoming vacation.
Credit AAA

Elizabeth Carey, public relations director at AAA of Western & Central New York,  suggested some reasons  why many workers are not advantage of all their vacation days.

“Well with 662 million vacation days not being used, some of the top reasons would be: that people feel like they can’t afford to take a vacation or people feel as though they don’t want to be away from work because it will make them look bad and they want to look good for the boss, they might feel as though they don’t want to be replaced on the job,” said Carey.

Among all the states, the states with the highest percentage of unused workdays are Idaho, New Hampshire, Alaska, South Dakota and Oklahoma. The states that most use all their work days are Maine, Hawaii, Arizona, Alabama and Wisconsin. New York is ranked 25th.

New York is directly on par with the national statistics. The study indicated that 54 percent of its workers not using all their vacation days.

The study does indicate that vacation usage rose slightly last year to an average of 16.8 days. This was the second year of growth after bottoming out in 2014 at 16.0 days.

The tendency to forfeit vacation days has a larger fiscal impact than many might expect. Project: Time Off, which collaborated with AAA on the study, estimated that if Americans were to use that vacation time, it would generate $128 billion in direct spending and an overall economic impact of $236 billion for the U.S. economy.

““When people take a vacation, maybe they’ll go out to dinner, maybe they’ll stay in a hotel, maybe they’ll fill their gas tank. All different things you would do on vacation. Do a little shopping. So, that’s money that goes right into the economy,” Carey said.

Cities like Washington D.C. and San Francisco  have a higher concentration of work martyrs, according to the data.

“I think work martyrs are people who always just feel like they have to be there and the place can’t operate without them," Carey told WBFO. "Whereas, if you take a look at other studies, they’ll say it’s healthy to take a vacation. You need to give yourself time to unwind, regroup and when you come back from your vacation you’re gonna work harder.”

The study by Project: Time Off concluded that work martyrs are less likely to receive a raise or a bonus and people who used all their vacation days are also more likely to receive a promotion.

The underlying message:  now that it summer, take a day, get out of the office and get on the road. Take a vacation.