63 percent of employees say this benefit matters even more than their salary

A new survey found that most employees value paid time off more than getting a plump paycheck.

Though Americans are notorious for skipping vacations, a new study shows an overwhelming majority of employees believe companies should offer paid time off as part of their benefits package. In fact, employees said, they'd turn down a job if paid time off weren't offered.

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According to a survey by TSheets, a time-tracking and scheduling software company, 88 percent of the 400 respondents surveyed said employers should offer paid time off, while 63 percent said they would decline a job offer from a company that didn't.

Ironically, while most employees said they valued paid time off, many admit to not using it. A whopping 70 percent of workers who received paid time off in 2016 did not use up all their days, with 26 percent of them saying they left 10 or more unused days on the table at year's end.

So even though employees don't use up all their allotted time, most say they like knowing it's there--just in case.

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"I have kids, and sometimes you just don't know when one of them wakes up with a fever," said Maggie Giles, a graphic designer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "It's nice to know I won't be docked for the day if I have to tend to a sick child."

Giles's family situation is not unlike that of many families across the country. And it could be one reason why more companies are moving toward a paid time off model where all days come out of one bucket, as compared to the traditional model of categorizing time based on sick days, vacation days, and personal days.

As The Washington Postreports:

One of the biggest pluses about [paid time off] for small-business owners is eliminating the administrative chore of tracking how many sick days versus vacation days their employees have used. That can be particularly helpful in the growing number of states, counties, and cities where employers are required to allow staffers to accrue sick time, usually up to 40 hours a year, depending on how many hours they work. With [paid time off], there's no need to track hours worked or accrued.

Many business owners don't want to have to police their employees to find out whether or not they're actually sick. As The Washington Post reports, "Some companies even offer unlimited [paid time off], particularly in places where staff members are not on set schedules." That means workers can "take as many days off as needed for whatever reason."

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Carol O'Kelley is the CEO of Salesfusion, an Atlanta-based marketing software manufacturer that offers unlimited paid time off. She tells The Washington Post, "Employees are much more comfortable if they need to be out with a sick child or need to be at an appointment."

"That has relieved a lot of unnecessary pressure and burdens on employees and managers," she adds.

Business owners all over are tuning into the trend.

Paid time off is a sound business investment.

Almost from the beginning, Geeta Nadkarni, founder and CEO of Baby Got Booked (and a fellow Inc.com columnist), offered her full-time employees paid time off. It's a tool she uses to attract top talent.

Between paid time off and national holidays, Nadkarni says her employees get about 18 days off a year. She doesn't care how they use the time, as long as they use it, she says. In her mind, Nadkarni sees offering paid time off as an investment in her business. It's a way to keep her team fresh and energized.

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"You shouldn't have to get sick to be able to take time off," Nadkarni says. "I look at it like my internet bill, or any other bill. This is my creativity bill. I can always switch my internet provider. But can I switch my team? Hell no."

Still, she asks employees to schedule their time off in advance so it doesn't create gaps in workflow, or lead to someone unknowingly calling or texting a team member on their day off.

"Ideally, they let us know ahead of time," Nadkarni said. "We won't text you, call you, or bug you. It's really a vacation for your brain."

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