There was no summer vacation for most Americans this summer as pandemic and economic concerns kept them from taking time off.
Nearly 3 in 4 Americans — or 72% — didn’t take a summer vacation at all, according to new data from LendingTree. Of those who remain employed and had paid time off — more than 2 in 5 of them didn’t use it, the online survey of 1,105 Americans found.
But without rest and relaxation, Americans are risking burn out from environmental and self-inflicted stressors. They are also leaving a valuable perk behind.
“Working hard is great, but the truth is that, we as a country, don't take nearly enough time off of work,” Matt Schulz, LendingTree’s chief credit analyst told Yahoo Money. “For our physical and mental health, we need breaks and this survey shows that we’re clearly not taking enough of them.”
Employees took less paid time off this summer
While the unemployment rate has continued to fall since April’s dramatic spike, the downward trajectory still isn’t comforting enough to convince many employed Americans that it’s okay to take time off.
Among those who didn’t use their paid time off, about 1 in 6 worried their employer would interpret their vacation as a lack of commitment and make them more vulnerable to potential furloughs or layoffs. One in 8 felt guilty asking for time off since they were working from home.
However, the plurality — 36% — of respondents had a defeatist attitude towards traveling, citing few destination options due to international and domestic restrictions on tourists.
‘If they financially are able’
Pre-pandemic, the ability to indulge in travel and leisure was often predicated on a stable stream of income. That remains true as the public crisis continues. High-earners were more apt to travel this summer, while lower-earners remained more hesitant to spend money, the survey found.
More than half of households earning greater than $100,000 took a summer vacation, compared with just over a third of those who make between $75,000 and $99,000. Of the households earning less than $25,000, just 15% went on a summer vacation.
“People really need to, if they financially are able,” Schulz said. “Take these vacations and take advantage of this time that they have,”
‘Leaving a really important benefit on the table’
For employees who receive employer benefits like insurance or retirement savings, they should also consider their vacation time as another benefit that carries monetary value, Schulz said.
Similar to how employees should proactively use perks like employer 401(k) matches and flexible spending accounts, passing on paid vacation is like “leaving a really important benefit on the table,” Schulz said. He emphasized that the pandemic is “absolutely positively not” the time to do so, especially given how many extra stressors this time has brought.
“While the location of your work may have changed, your need for a break from that work hasn’t,” Schulz said. “People need to understand that vacation time that they have is theirs, and it's valuable and it's important, and it’s something that they need to build into the schedule of their life, or they may look back and end up regretting it.”