You've probably heard about the disturbing trend of American workers not taking all of their allotted vacation days. More than 4 in 10 workers say they regularly do not use all of their days, and, on average, eight vacation days go unused.
A recent TIME cover story on the disappearing American summer vacation also noted that each year, 169 million vacation days go unused and do not carry over. So they're just wasted.
This week, the Boston Globe called attention to the results of a survey conducted for Alamo Rent a Car, which indicates that even when Americans do take vacation days, to a disturbing degree they often aren't truly taking these days off from work. Not entirely anyway. The survey reports:
Thirty-five percent of millennials reported that they worked every day of their vacations, and felt less productive when they returned.
That's right: More than one-third of millennial workers say never actually take an entire day off. Ever. At some point every day during their "vacations," they work.
In previous studies, six out of ten employees admitted that they've conducted some work on a recent vacation. But millennials appear to be the group most compelled to stay plugged in and productive each and every day, no matter if they're supposedly not working that week.
We're not talking about the "workcation" trend covered recently by the Wall Street Journal, in which employees work remotely from a vacation destination. Instead, people—young people in particular—are working during times that are, on paper at least, full-fledged vacations. And as Deborah Good, a human resources management professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told the WSJ, there is a problem if employees are pressured into never truly disconnecting from work: “There may be a backlash among employees if they feel they must work all the time and can’t ever have a real vacation.”
Taking a true break from work is essential for the mind, soul, and body. Research also shows that vacations can be good for your career. Despite millennials' concerns about feeling less productive after they get back to the office after a vacation, or other worries about what the boss might think if you're not reachable for, like five whole days, some studies indicate that increased vacation time is linked with increased productivity at work.
It makes sense. The point of a vacation, beyond the mere enjoyment, is to come away feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to take on new challenges at work—like trying to convince everybody in the office they need to take a vacation.