Putting off the beach
Employees cite many reasons why they don't use up their vacations:
- Bare-bones staffing. In today's slimmed-down workplaces, there may be no one to cover for vacationers. "So many people have been laid off that when someone gets back from vacation, it's going to be hard to catch up," said Dan Ryan in Nashville. "The email will be unmanageable. People just say, 'I'll avoid the stress and stay here.' "
- Affordability. "Gas is expensive, plane fare is expensive, accommodations and meals are expensive," said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. "That's why we're hearing more about 'staycations' and 'daycations.' " He says that for some employees, especially those in their 30s, vacations can conflict with responsibilities involving children, spouses and parents.
- Husbanding the off days. "Many workers choose to work instead and 'bank' their time for when they have enough savings to spend on a vacation," said Leonard Sanicola, senior benefits practice leader for World at Work, an organization focusing on compensation and benefits.
- Cashing out. Some folks would rather cash out the unused time when they leave the job. According to a survey by the World at Work group, 91 percent of employers with traditional vacation plans pay for unused vacation in cash at the time of separation.
Connected by smartphone
In today's work culture, even people who do make it to the lake may not really be on vacation. Email and cellphones keep them tethered to the office.
A February 2011 study by CouponCodes4U.com, a coupon discount website, showed that a third of Americans take work calls or read work emails during vacation, with a quarter of those admitting that it's a cause of arguments when away from home.
"It's hard to decouple life from your BlackBerry," said Ryan. "I brought mine on my anniversary vacation in Hawaii with my wife."
American vacation habits contrast starkly with those in other parts of the world.