OVER THE LAST DECADE, the American workplace has evolved. More corporations are turning offices into hip, co-working spaces, and allowing employees to work remotely. Hell, some offices even let workers take naps and do yoga during work hours. But even though the idea of work life balance is catching on in many corporate cultures, according to a new study, there are still plenty of people reluctant to accept that sometimes we need a mental break.
According to the 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey, 59% of millennials reported feeling “vacation shamed,” as in they were made to feel a sense of shame or guilt for taking or planning a vacation. But even though millennials are the largest group getting shamed, they’re also more likely to dish it out, with 42% admitting that they have vacation shamed their co-workers.
But the pressure doesn’t stop there. In the same survey, 47% of millennials felt as though they had to justify why they were using their vacation days. And for 22% of employees of all generations, vacation shaming got so intense that it prevented them from taking any time off.
These findings could provide the answer to another survey released last year that said 41% of employees did not use any of their paid vacation days, and explain why the rate of Americans taking vacations is at a 40-year low.
This “work martyr” complex is more detrimental than you might assume. This “Lost Week,” the time Americans should be taking vacations, is adding stress onto families, with 59% of kids admitting that they’re upset when their parents prioritize work over spending time with the family. Not taking the time off also sets a poor example for future generations, who are not learning to set firm boundaries with their jobs.
From an economics standpoint, if Americans used the 429 million vacation days they’re wasting, it would pump $160 billion back into the U.S. economy.
To change this behavior, we have to change several factors deeply rooted into the mindset of the American workforce. Not using vacation days is not a badge of honor. We are not office heroes for being able to pull endless hours. There’s no need to feel like no one else can do our job, and while we’re at it, let’s get over the fear that we’ll be be seen as replaceable for taking a trip to Yosemite with the family. Because no matter how much you love your job, you still need (and deserve) to take a break.