Collectively, American workers permanently lost 169 million days of paid vacation in 2013, according to a new study published this week by the U.S. Travel Association.
Titled "All Work and No Pay: The Impact of Forfeited Time Off," the study found that by foregoing the paid time off (PTO) to which they're entitled, American workers last year forfeited $52.4 billion worth of benefits, an average of $504 per employee.
"Americans are taking the value of their time for granted. By passing on vacation days and working instead, U.S. employees are serving as volunteers for their companies," said Adam Sacks, founder and president of the Tourism Economics division of Oxford Economics, which conducted the study on behalf of the U.S. Travel Association. "We discovered that this forfeited time has substantial individual, national, and economic implications."
According to the study, Americans took an average of 16 days of vacation last year, which is the lowest of any point in the last four decades and well below the average of 20.3 days as recently as 2000.
"If this trend continues, the vacations of our childhoods could be a thing of the past -- completely unknown by the next generation. That would be a true loss for our families and our country," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.
If Americans returned to their pre-2000 vacation patterns, annual vacation days taken by U.S. employees would jump 27 percent -- 768 million days -- delivering a $284 billion impact across the entire U.S. economy, according to the study, which also debunked the myth that those who work more go farther: Employees who left 11 to 15 vacation days unused are 6.5 percent less likely to receive a raise or bonus than those who used all of their vacation days.
"America's work martyrs aren't more successful," Dow concluded. "We need to change our thinking. All work and no play is not going to get you ahead -- it's only going to get you more stress."